To address inequities in our communities, individuals with on-the-ground experience assisting people most impacted by those inequities have important insights to contribute. Solid Ground Bilingual Tenant Counselor Arturo Velasquez is one such on-the-ground expert – and he shares his experiences and knowledge collaborating with partners to make positive change for both Solid Ground program participants and people across Washington state.
Tenants’ Rights Working Group
Arturo recently joined the newly formed Tenants’ Rights Working Group under the sponsorship of Washington State Rep. Nicole Macri, which seeks to research policy that fosters greater equity for renters. The group includes lawyers, tenant union representatives, and service provider staff. Arturo shares, “I want to have a hand in creating concrete steps” to address inequities to benefit both Solid Ground Tenant Services callers and renters across the state.
Among potential policy change, Rep. Macri has recently introduced a Just Cause bill (HB2804) for Washington state, which would expand Seattle tenant eviction protections statewide. This would emulate the recent expansion of the Source of Income Protection Ordinance, sponsored by Rep. Macri, which prohibits landlords from discriminating against renters who receive alternative sources of income, most notably Section 8 vouchers.
A common issue Arturo observes among Solid Ground Tenant Services callers is the unbalanced power dynamic between renters and landlords, due to the difficulty for renters to access resources that help them understand their rights. “People worrying about their jobs and their children? They don’t have time for this.” So Solid Ground’s Tenant Services provides a wealth of information and referral resources to help people maintain permanent and reliable housing.
Having worked more than four years for Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), Arturo knows well the psychological toll of homelessness. He remarks, “Homelessness is like this heaviness. Some people work really hard to get out of it, but for other people that heaviness just weighs them down. They give up, stop taking care of themselves.” It is imperative to help people “get and stay housed.” The Tenants’ Rights Working Group is a manifestation in response to that need.
Hispanic Advisory Team (HAT)
Arturo is also an active member of the Hispanic Advisory Team (HAT), formed by St. Vincent de Paul’s Centro Rendu program, which provides support and services to Latinx immigrant families in King County. Composed of service providers who are all working to address the needs of this community, HAT looks to “figure out what services are available to the Hispanic community and how they can access those,” he says. He was invited to join by a St. Vincent de Paul staff member who attended one of his Spanish-speaking Rent Smart workshops.
“I want to have a hand in creating concrete steps” to address inequities to benefit both Solid Ground Tenant Services callers and renters across the state. -Arturo Velasquez, Solid Ground Bilingual Tenant Counselor.
HAT is active at a critical time for Latinx immigrant families, and “we want to be a voice for them,” Arturo explains. While HAT’s services may not look much different from other similar services, Arturo says they are “geared toward the [Latinx] community linguistically – oriented to their special needs,” such as Spanish-speaking child care and medical care.
Through his involvement, Arturo has a growing network of service provider referrals for his callers – but often, callers tell him that St. Vincent de Paul referred them to his services at Solid Ground. “To hear somebody say that,” he says, “that’s the goal.” Regardless of how the referral is made, it means that individuals are connecting with the services that they need.
Arturo sees his position at Solid Ground as creating this unique opportunity: Through these important collaborative efforts, he and others contribute their on-the-ground knowledge to reduce inequities in communities across Washington state.
The tenant information contained in this article is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services Message Hotline at 206.694.6767 (currently open for messages Mondays and Thursdays between 10:30am and 1:30pm – hours subject to change) or visit our For Tenants webpages at any time.