Looking back at the year 2001, it is hard to remember anything other than the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. A few other historical bullet points:
- George W. Bush was sworn in as President.
- The Congressional Budget Office projected a $5.6 trillion dollar federal budget surplus over the next 10 years!
- The Taliban began destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas.
- In the Netherlands, the Act on the Opening up of Marriage went into effect, which allowed same-sex couples to marry legally for the first time in the world since the reign of Nero.
- Locally, the Seattle Mariners set a record for winning baseball games, but flamed out in the playoffs.
- The Nisqually earthquake shook the Seattle region, causing significant damage in Pioneer Square.
For Solid Ground it was a time of piloting new ways of responding to the changing needs of our community.
We developed the Financial Skills Education program, later renamed Financial Fitness Boot Camp. The program offers money management classes, skill-building workshops and personal support for families working to attain financial and housing stability. Over the past few years, the program has been part of a national Learning Cluster to develop best practices for the field.
Recognizing that lack of affordable transportation was a barrier to accessing well-paying jobs, in 2001 we partnered with Port Jobs to launch Working Wheels. This program received used fleet cars from the Port and the City of Seattle, as well as donations from private donors. The cars were brought up to safety and service standards by our Transportation Department mechanics and sold at affordable prices to people who needed a car to get or keep a job. We partnered with a local credit union to get favorable loan rates, and even provided ongoing maintenance through the short-lived Community Garage. Working Wheels was closed in 2009, a victim of changing economic conditions that made municipalities hold on to their fleet vehicles longer, and made fundraising for the program more challenging.
2001 is also the year Solid Ground committed to undoing institutional racism:
- Trained staff in Undoing Institutional Racism and cultural competency.
- Formed a multi-racial staff-driven Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) to organize internally and begin to identify and prioritize anti-racism actions to better serve our clients.
- Engaged staff and community members to recognize and take action against racism in our own lives and communities.
Additionally, our advocacy work ramped up its efforts to address predatory lending in 2001. The Statewide Poverty Action Network was a founding member of the Seattle/King County Coalition for Responsible Lending (SKCCRL), which increased awareness of and helped consumers avoid predatory loans, and worked with local lenders to increase affordable loan options without limiting credit access. Our staff served on the founding SKCCRL steering committee and were active on its committees.