When AJ Oguara, Solid Ground’s newest residential advocate, logged in to his first staff meeting at Sand Point Housing last month, he was greeted by a very familiar face: his father, Amadanyo Oguara.
“I could not be more proud of you,” Amadanyo said, a broad smile on his face.
It was special moment not only for Amadanyo and AJ – who have persevered through significant hardships together as father and son – but also the larger family at Sand Point Housing, where Amadanyo has been improving and enriching the lives of residents, especially children, for more than four years. Amadanyo and now AJ are part of a team of more than 25 case managers, advocates, and other staff who work literally around the clock to nurture the success of people recovering from the trauma of homelessness and moving on to the next phase of their lives.
“I am excited to have this father-son duo working on the campus to help formerly homeless families and children stabilize their lives and get back on their feet,” says Dee Hillis, Solid Ground’s residential services director. “Every day, AJ and Amadanyo work side by side with other colleagues to ensure that residents achieve stability and gain the solid footing that they need to prevent a return to homelessness.”
Like all Sand Point Housing staff, Amadanyo and AJ bring their own personalities, passions, and lived experiences into their work with residents. The elder Oguara is a born storyteller – a true griot in the West African tradition – and is known around the campus for being quick to pull out his drums or launch into a story.
Amadanyo officially came to Solid Ground as a children’s advocate in 2017, but he started working with children living in Solid Ground housing even earlier, while teaching musical theater at the Magnuson Community Center next door. He’s also a published author, with four novels under his belt, and has a Master’s degree in Cultural Studies.
As a griot, Amadanyo also sees it as his duty to carry forward the history and culture of the Nembe people of Nigeria. It’s something he instilled in AJ as well.
“From my early years to my current adulthood, I remember the many times that I’ve heard stories about the Oguara family’s history and the traditional stories from our Nembe culture, all thanks to my father,” says AJ.
In addition to his Nembe heritage, AJ is also Native American – an enrolled member of the Colville Confederated Tribes – and brings to his work a firsthand understanding of the racism and marginalization that Indigenous peoples face today. Before joining the Solid Ground staff, he worked as a program coordinator with the Clear Sky Native Youth Council and served on the Student Leader Board at North Seattle College, where he worked on equity and engagement issues. (Read our blog post, A sacred spring and the ever-flowing resilience of Indigenous peoples, about how Clear Sky youth helped preserve a North Seattle sacred spring where Coast Salish peoples have gathered since time immemorial.)
“Safe, stable housing and food security are necessities for anyone’s health and survival. We are happy to work among colleagues that share similar values, interests, and experiences.” ~AJ Oguara
The father-son team has also experienced housing instability in their own lives, and AJ says he was naturally drawn to his father’s work nurturing the success of people who have experienced homelessness.
“Having my son AJ join me at Sand Point, and in Solid Ground’s mission, is profound in the sense that we share a similar sense of commitment to serving people in need,” Amadanyo says. “AJ is special. His compassion and breadth of knowledge of social and cultural issues makes him quite ideal in the role he is now serving at Sand Point Family Housing.”
When they’re together, it’s easy to see the love, pride, and mutual respect that Amadanyo and AJ hold for one another. AJ says his father has been his lifelong role model and describes him as “someone that uplifts the people around him with his personality and energy.” He says he is grateful to be able to work alongside his father and live out their shared values.
“Safe, stable housing and food security are necessities for anyone’s health and survival,” AJ says. “We are happy to work among colleagues that share similar values, interests, and experiences. Solid Ground is where my father and I can support the mission of bringing stability and progress to the situations of people and families that are undergoing significant hardship and obstacles.”
Learn more about how Solid Ground provides emergency, transitional, and permanent housing – along with comprehensive case management – for individuals and families who’ve experienced homelessness. Want to join our life-changing teams at Sand Point and Broadview housing? Check out open positions at the Solid Ground Careers page.