When former Solid Ground King County Housing Stability Project client Patricia Birgen-Redwolf shared her story with us last winter, her situation was looking up, and she was excitedly moving forward with her life goals. Sadly, Patricia passed away in late July 2010 from complications following surgery related to her Multiple Sclerosis. We spoke with her former case manager at Vashon Youth & Family Services, Debbie Rieschl, who said that Patricia would have liked to see her story published so that it might help others.
I am a single mom to autistic twin teenage boys. In addition to the stress of raising high-need teenagers, I myself struggle daily with the physical and emotional pain of Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, hypothyroidism, a heart condition and health issues related to the MS. Although recently awarded SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) from the 20+ years that I have been a small business owner, and the taxes paid into the system, that same system penalizes me financially with high medical co-pays due to the hours I still work – yet I need to continue to work in order to survive, regardless of my physicians’ requirement that I stop working. It has me in an endless cycle of declining health and stress.
In late December of 2005 I found myself the victim of domestic violence when I left a relationship and ended up in the hospital with a concussion, fractured ribs, multiple contusions, and the police and victims advocates telling me I needed to move and move fast, as this man had eight prior felony convictions and (unbeknown to me) had been in prison four times, once for running a girlfriend over with her own car.
So, I ran. I came back to King County as that is where my support system is, friends – some whom I’ve known for up to 20 years.
I tried desperately to find an affordable home and within a week I found a house. Although it was outside my price range, it was available immediately, so I took it rather than having my boys and my ADA-assist dog remain homeless and living on friends’ couches and my car in the middle of winter. Also, I was deeply concerned as my autistic twins were beginning to have severe stress reactions due to the lack of stability of a home.
I paid the hefty deposit with loans from friends and first month’s rent from my own money, but when the rental agent came back to tell me that I had to pay an additional, HUGE deposit in order to move in because of the restraining order I had on the man who attempted to kill me (because he was still on the run from the police), I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. I couldn’t go back home, even though I had paid my rent through the end of the month because of the fear of this very dangerous man. I had laid down an electronic trail to make him believe I was in a different state altogether, and later when friends and I went down to move, this was indeed smart as he came to the house with a shotgun in his truck, and we had to get the police to protect me while I hid in my car up the road.
After many, many calls to resource networks, I finally discovered Solid Ground and the King County Housing Stability Project. I needed to get into my new house so I could get back to work and try to get life back to some semblance of normalcy. After nearly two weeks of constant high stress and homelessness while trying to heal from serious injuries, seek housing and calm my boys, my prayers and those of my friends were answered when Solid Ground approved my application. They paid the funds needed to help me secure stable safe housing in a neighborhood that is safe and somewhat difficult to find, even for locals.
I don’t know how I can ever repay what they gave as it wasn’t just about the money, it was also knowing that a community of strangers who did not know us or the details of our story cared enough to step in and ensure that a hardworking single mom with an enormous amount of stress and life struggle – and her two children – would have a safe place to call home. I will be forever deeply indebted and appreciative of this gift, and in all my works will continue my own personal mission to ‘pay it forward’ when I see others in need.
Thank you to all the invisible Angels out there who were responsible for ensuring that this program had the funding to help my family through our deepest time of need. Bless you all! ~Patricia
Note: Patricia’s boys are safe, living with family friends, and receiving ongoing support.
To find out if you or someone you know might qualify for assistance through the King County Housing Stability Project, please call the Community Information Line at 2.1.1 or 206.461.3200.