In 2009, Victor De Los Santos went legally blind. He started bumping into walls and couldn’t drive. Then he wasn’t able to operate a computer anymore. “All of a sudden I couldn’t see people, I couldn’t get on the bus. I couldn’t get to the grocery store by myself,” he recalls. “It was really, really scary.” For someone whose 23-year nonprofit career revolved around connecting people, resources and causes, this was traumatic.
Victor couldn’t work, lost his income and eventually was evicted from his home. In the space of a few weeks, he lost all his financial security. “It was kind of ironic that my entire life was dedicated to making sure people had housing and insurance, counseling, access to food and resources,” he says. And these things are exactly what he lost. “It was very embarrassing for a nonprofit professional. I had to really just learn how to redo everything again.”
You are loved & you are worth it
Through his support team at the Department for the Blind, Victor connected with Solid Ground’s housing Stabilization Services and began working with Barb Hart and Theresa Curry Almuti.
Using Seattle Homeless Prevention funds, Solid Ground supported Victor to stabilize his housing and get financial counseling. In addition to helping him get his credit report cleared up and work on other skills, Solid Ground staff were an important emotional support.
“What I liked about Barb is she is my cheerleader. She is so positive about things and she was just willing to help me. And like I said, I don’t qualify for a lot of programs. My philosophy with other people is that ‘you are loved and you are worth it’ type of thing. She has the same philosophy,” Victor says, choking up a bit.
“I had to really be willing to accept that. A person’s self-worth often comes from the money they make, or how involved they are in the community, or what they are able to engage in. My whole motto is ‘show up, engage, remain teachable.’”
In July, Solid Ground provided financial support so Victor could move back to his community – but there are thousands of people like him in our region who are at risk of homelessness.
“A person’s self-worth often comes from the money they make, or how involved they are in the community, or what they are able to engage in. My whole motto is ‘show up, engage, remain teachable.’” ~Victor De Los Santos, Homeless Prevention participant
Seattle is already short 14,000 affordable housing units to meet current need – units that will take years to build. And each year brings 20,000 more people to the city.
Victor was one of 3,695 people who avoided homelessness in 2017 with Solid Ground’s support. Between April 2017 and March 2018, we also used innovative Diversion funding to help 299 households avoid the homeless housing system – more than 63% of whom exited our services into permanent housing. (In contrast, only 36% of households using King County’s homeless services exited to permanent housing during that time frame.)
That special touch
People like Victor don’t have years to wait – but we give them a fighting chance at stability now. Today, Victor is continuing financial counseling through Solid Ground as he builds his career in nonprofit and recovery coaching. He’s also completing his Masters in Nonprofit Leadership at Seattle University.
But for all the skills and resources he’s developed to support his future success, what made working with Solid Ground stand out for him was how he connected with our team.
“It was that special touch. There was always that encouragement,” he says. “It wasn’t just, ‘Hey, we are paying for this.’ It was like they remembered, and ‘We know you have that interview with your potential client on Tuesday; good luck.’ And on Tuesday I’d get a note: ‘Hey, just wanted to wish you luck!’”