If you’ve never experienced living without a home, you may think the solution to homelessness is as simple as having enough housing for everyone. But talk with someone like Lisa DeBose, who has experienced it, and you understand that homelessness impacts a person’s whole being – especially their health.
Lisa was part of the initial community of people who gained permanent housing in 2014 when Solid Ground leased up Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney Place (PGK) on our Sand Point Housing campus. She had lost her job with the state in 2007 as a result of chronic health issues. She pursued additional job training, but her health and the job market both tanked a few years later.
“When you are in survival mode, many things get overlooked. … Recognize what you do have – and then build your skills.” ~Lisa DeBose, Sand Point Housing resident
“I lost my apartment, lost everything. My unemployment had run out. In April 2010, I ended up losing my place altogether. I had to put my stuff in storage – give my dog away – which is tough,” she says.
“So I was adrift, with my friends and – thank goodness – very strong members of my congregation,” she says.
“Back and forth, sometimes back and forth between Seattle and Federal Way, literally – just trying to be patient while doing that and dealing with worsening health conditions.”
Moving beyond survival mode
A staff member at the Community Services Office in Shoreline heard about PGK’s opening, and after a six-week stay on the waiting list, Lisa was offered the last unit in the building. “When you are trying to survive – when you are in survival mode – many things get overlooked,” Lisa says.
“Nutrition is not as good. Sleep is not as good. Just having fun? A lot of people forget what it is like to laugh. A lot of people lose their friends. They lose their support groups. All those things become second to ‘Where am I going to be?’ and ‘How is it going to work?’ It takes longer to get yourself together; depression kicks in. That has a huge effect on your health.
“Being able to be in a comfortable bed, being able to be by myself if I need to, being able to rest, is essential. Being able to have my own schedule, knowing that on the days where you need to move slower, you can – that is huge. Having your own place gives you peace of mind. You cook your own food. Being able to be part of a community is immeasurable.”
Cultivating community support
Multiple Solid Ground and community partner programs available at Sand Point Housing support Lisa’s progress on many more aspects of her life beyond her housing status, including the PGK Garden, onsite cooking and nutrition classes, budgeting and financial planning workshops, and legal resources to help with her SSI claim.
“The garden is a hoot!” she says with a laugh. “We had a whole variety of tomatoes, two different kinds of cucumbers, chard, the most AMAZING lettuce. We had broccoli, green onions, other stuff too. Peppers, little chilis. Green beans are a huge favorite, and they do really well. We also do a ton of flowers, which is nice because it brings in the bees.”
Some neighbors help cultivate the plants, others harvest, and the garden has evolved into a social hub. A true community builder, Lisa likes to organize impromptu group meals in the PGK community room and has been asked to volunteer with onsite cooking classes. She also helps organize a sewing group that meets on campus.
Skills everyone can use
The budgeting classes were “a way to be proactive so you get some empowerment there, and also some knowledge,” Lisa says. She contributed her own experience to the budgeting classes, such as using Buy Nothing Facebook groups to gain resources and build community connections.
“I’ve run a budget for everything. I raised a kid; I helped raise my sisters’. I ran a household, you know, figuring out how to make $197 last a month. But everybody can pick up a budgeting trick, everybody. Everybody can have a better understanding of banking, everybody. All those life skills, everybody could use some,” she reminds us. “We talked about being thankful? Recognize what you do have – and then build your skills.”