After two long years of a pandemic that kept many of us isolated behind closed doors, more than 360 of our partners and supporters gathered both virtually and in person for Opening Doors to Opportunity, Solid Ground’s annual Building Community Event. We raised more than $165,000 together while celebrating all the different ways our community works to open doors to new possibilities for people experiencing poverty.
“The most effective way Solid Ground can open doors to opportunity,” Solid Ground’s Senior Director of Philanthropy and Communications, Anna Cronin, told the audience, “is by listening to the people we serve and working with them to co-create that community that we all want to see. Dr. Martin Luther King called it the beloved community – a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow human being.”
Livestreamed from Town Hall Seattle, Opening Doors to Opportunity was filled with music, celebration, and stories from Solid Ground staff, residents, and program participants about the many kinds of doors we work to open as a community.
Often one of those doors is a lack of access to stable housing – and we can open it by providing rental assistance with case management, tenant education, and permanent supportive housing. Once opened, the opportunities on the other side of that door are just the beginning.
“When people have the space to not be in survival mode, then they have the time to think about ‘Okay, what does life look like now? How do I get to the next step?’” said Doug Baldwin, via a video appearance. The former Seahawk wide receiver’s startup, Vault 89 Ventures, is working to address homelessness by developing a for-profit model for permanent supportive housing.
Baldwin will join the Solid Ground team in-person on Thursday, May 12 at Glassybaby Seattle for an intimate, in-person conversation on Addressing Our Community’s Homelessness Crisis. Find out more and register for this and other upcoming Solid Ground Social Justice Salons.
“What success looks like changes a lot when you work with families for years. At the start, success may mean one thing. It may mean stability in housing. And then later, success may mean other things. It may mean stability in school. It may mean stability in careers.” ~Oliver Alexander-Adams, Family and Children’s Program Manager, Sand Point Housing
Often the doors we open at Solid Ground lead out of isolation, as with Solid Ground Transportation (SGT), which provides rides for people who have trouble getting to community connections and appointments on their own. “So our driver who is going to pick them up is actually, at the same time, a wellness check on these people – and an opportunity for them to socialize with the outside world,” said Abdel Elfahmy, SGT Operations Manager.
Other doors keep people living with poverty from being heard by the lawmakers who make decisions that affect their lives. Solid Ground’s advocacy partner, Statewide Poverty Action Network, seeks to open those doors by listening to people who have actually experienced poverty, training them as advocates, and bringing their messages directly to state legislators.
“From my experience, the people who make laws – who have the power to do that stuff – they don’t know what it’s like to be poor,” said Amy Roark, a Poverty Action member. “You know, when your kid only has one pair of shoes, and they lost a shoe. Now they can’t go to school because they don’t have another shoe. They don’t understand stuff like that.”
Watch these short event videos by Momma Nikki highlighting how our community works together to open doors and remove barriers to opportunity.
When opening doors like these, Solid Ground believes it’s important to understand what folks are looking for on the other side, what goals and dreams they hope to find. And that requires more listening.
“What success looks like changes a lot when you work with families for years,” said Oliver Alexander-Adams, the Family and Children’s Program Manager at Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing. “At the start, success may mean one thing. It may mean stability in housing. And then later, success may mean other things. It may mean stability in school. It may mean stability in careers.”
When every door is the right door
But as much as the night was a celebration of our work together, it was also a time to reflect on the work left to do. Because we know it’s not enough to just open doors. We need to make it easier for people to find the right door and stop forcing people to knock on one door after another to find the support they need to thrive. It’s a message we heard loud and clear in Solid Ground’s last Community Needs Assessment.
“We learned – no surprise – that people do not like having to go through multiple agencies or programs to have all their needs met,” Anna said. “They knew that their housing issues were connected with food insecurity, and they wondered why the social services system made them go through different doors to access these resources.”
Solid Ground’s answer to these fractures in our social safety net is a new program called Every Door, which seeks to support people holistically, “so that all of our services are available to people no matter what door they come in to Solid Ground,” as Anna said. In the future, it won’t matter whether someone comes to Solid Ground for help with food, transportation, or housing – we’ll make sure they’re connected to all the resources they need without having to go elsewhere to find them.
The evening’s many conversations were intertwined with the music of co-host Eva Walker, a frontwoman of Seattle rock band The Black Tones and host of KEXP’s Audioasis. Eva said the closed door she faced as a kid was lack of representation of Black musicians in rock ‘n’ roll, which for much of its history has almost exclusively centered the work of white musicians. She said she was even told as a child that Black people don’t play guitar, or that her love of rock made her less Black.
It was another Seattle rocker who opened the door to a career as a rock musician for her. “It wasn’t until I discovered Jimi Hendrix that I realized the importance of representation,” Eva said. “Because when I saw him, I immediately went, ‘Wait, Black people do play rock ‘n’ roll! They do play guitar!’”
You can watch a replay of the entire event and Afterparty on our Opening Doors to Opportunity webpage. And of course, we’re still accepting donations to help push us toward our fundraising goal – so please consider joining us in opening more doors!
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We couldn’t have done it without support from our event partners!
Solid Ground is so grateful for the support from our sponsors and event partners, who underwrote the cost of the event. We’re humbled by and so appreciative of their support of our annual Building Community Event! A special shoutout to our partners at QFC, who provided exclusive sponsorship of the Afterparty featuring Eva Walker, and who support Solid Ground’s stabilization services with easy-to-use store gift cards. And thank you to Whole Foods Market for providing food and beverages for our event attendees.
And thanks our VOICE RAISER partners:
- Lianna Kressin, Basic Needs Campaign Lead, Statewide Poverty Action Network
- Barb Hart, Case Manager, Homelessness Prevention Program
- Oliver Alexander-Adams, Family and Children’s Program Manager, Sand Point Housing