Editor’s Note: For many women and children, escaping domestic violence (DV) is a root cause of their homelessness. Solid Ground’s Broadview Shelter and Transitional Housing program serves primarily women and their children who are working to survive domestic violence and rebuild stable lives. The following story was written by a recent resident of Broadview and our Sand Point Family Housing program. While she is not sharing her name in order to protect herself, she is very open about her experience. Her story is direct, honest and moving as it documents the difficult path DV survivors must walk to reclaim their lives. We are honored to be able to share it with you.
In September 2008, my daughter and I went into hiding from my daughter’s father by moving into Solid Ground’s Broadview Shelter. Despite the fact that this shelter was confidential, my ex had searched the neighborhood and found my car parked there. Because of this, the advocates at Broadview relocated us to a shelter in Kent.
Three months went by as my daughter and I resided safely in Kent. I spent every day trying to find some type of transitional housing; our time in the Kent shelter was strictly limited. My income level couldn’t afford us to pay market rent. We gratefully received public assistance and I also received SSI, as I have a disability. On top of that, I did part-time nanny work as much as possible. But with all of these, it was still not enough to pay market rent. My daughter and I don’t have family in the Northwest. I knew that our only viable choice was to find transitional housing.
I worked with my domestic violence advocate, my therapist, my housing advocate, and multiple social workers exhausting every transitional housing option that existed. Every day I called the Community Information Line (2-1-1) hoping they had been notified of an opening in transitional housing. I even contacted transitional housing programs well outside King County. Sadly, none of my efforts found us a spot, and my exit date from the shelter in Kent was two weeks away. I spent this last bit of time trying to get us into another emergency shelter. Christmas 2008 came and went, and all the emergency shelters were full. I started to panic. In the nick of time, I landed us in our third shelter, this one another domestic violence shelter in which our stay was not to exceed six weeks.
The third shelter was run by New Beginnings. The staff was very helpful and the shelter provided many resources. Again, I worked every day to find transitional housing for us. I had applied to Sand Point Family Housing (a transitional housing program run by Solid Ground) four months prior but had not heard back from them. I contacted Sand Point again, and this time I received a response. After five weeks in our third shelter, my daughter and I were accepted to move into Sand Point Family Housing, where we could stay for two years, provided that we abided by the program guidelines.
In February 2009, we moved into our own one-bedroom apartment. For the first time in a long time, I finally felt that we had the stability of a safe and affordable home in which my rent was one-third of my income. Stable housing would allow me to focus on progressing my life in much-needed areas. My plan was to engage in mental health counseling, finish my education, and finally, seek employment.
My housing advocate at Sand Point Family Housing came to my apartment once a week. Together, we set long-term goals as well as short-term goals. I worked with Child Care Resources to help pay for my daughter’s daycare. This freed up my time so that I was able to nanny part-time caring for an autistic child. I used the computer in Sand Point’s community room to take an online class and get certified in caring for autistic children.
Sand Point Family Housing is located in Warren G. Magnuson Park. My daughter and I were able to spend abundant time outside as there was a playground adjacent to our building, and also a dog park within walking distance (which was great because I have a therapy dog). The convenience of all the amenities in proximity to our apartment promoted a healthy living environment for us. During the summer I volunteered to help maintain the vegetable garden which was located along the side of our building. We ate organic community-grown fruits and vegetables all summer long.
As I settled into Sand Point and got into a routine with part-time work, domestic violence support groups and also therapy sessions at the Community Psychiatric Clinic, I felt myself healing and gaining personal strength. I determined that it was time to finish my Bachelor’s Degree at University of Washington (UW). My housing advocate was very supportive in helping me get my student loans out of default. My domestic violence advocate at New Beginnings helped me apply for the Women’s Independence Scholarship Program (WISP). WISP paid for my tuition at UW, parking, books, and my daughter’s daycare so I could go to school.
The most helpful resource at Sand Point was definitely my housing advocate. I can honestly say that she was dedicated to me progressing in life. Getting my life on track was a slow and arduous process. Being a single parent of a small child and battling clinical depression can create a lot of barriers while trying to crawl out of poverty and homelessness. My advocate always listened to my needs. She researched things with me like parenting classes, daycare and internship possibilities. She helped me apply for every long-term housing option out there. She always had healthy suggestions when my depression got bad. I vividly remember her being there while I made so many phone calls during the overwhelming and complicated legal process I had to undertake to protect my daughter and I from her father.
Going back to school was challenging. It was difficult to concentrate with a young child at home in the evenings. Gratefully, Sand Point had respite childcare for my daughter three nights a week. This allowed me to get some homework done or sometimes just have some time to myself. My daughter loved going to respite care. She formed healthy bonds with the other children. The respite care provider engaged enthusiastically with the children and even held cooking classes for them on Fridays.
In June 2010, I graduated from UW with a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Centered Design and Engineering. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this goal in such a timely fashion without all the help from my housing advocate and also the resources made available to me at Sand Point. Even though my housing advocate helped me apply for every long-term housing option possible, nothing came through, and my exit date at Sand Point was approaching — it was just six months away.
I once again began feeling the stress of finding stable affordable housing for my daughter and me. Fortunately, by this time, I had completed my Bachelor’s Degree and also an internship, so in turn, I was more employable. Everything within me wanted to have a career to provide for myself and my daughter without the aid of public assistance and low-income housing. The challenge in all this is finding a job in the midst of this economic crisis.
My housing advocate came to me and said that there was some funding available for residents who are potentially employable enough to pay market rent in a given time. She said that since I had complied well with the housing program and I had completed my educational goals, I had potential to find employment that would afford me market rent. Therefore, they could offer me these funds, which would subsidize the rent for me until June 2011, allowing me to choose an affordable market rate apartment in the location I desired. After June 2011, I will take over the market rate rent. This generous assistance provided me a reasonable timeframe to transition into the workforce and financial independence from public assistance. I graciously accepted the offer.
In September 2010, my daughter and I moved into an apartment that fit our needs in a wonderful location in which my rent was still one-third my income. It has been a bit difficult leaving Sand Point. I miss seeing my housing advocate once a week (now I see her once a month). I am seeking employment in the field of journalism. I have had some freelance articles published and am building a writing portfolio. Most of my work has been unpaid, but I am moving in the right direction as far as attaining employment. My daughter is doing great — she goes to a preschool co-op where I work once a week and serve as the fundraising coordinator.
At last I feel as though I am successfully transitioning into the workforce and am on the road to being able to provide for my daughter and myself. Transitional housing truly served its purpose for us — it allowed us to transition out of poverty and homelessness toward independence, and most of all, toward a gratifying life.
Broadview Transitional Housing and Sand Point Family Housing rely on the support of individual community members to help hundreds of women regain their lives. Please go to our website and donate to support this vital work!