I often say that I have one of the best jobs at Solid Ground. Every day, I get to go out and talk with our participants and residents about the ways the Solid Ground community has changed their lives and given them hope.
Sometimes that change comes with a safe place to heal after experiences with domestic violence or homelessness. Sometimes it’s having someone fight for you when you’re cut off from the state benefits you need to survive. And sometimes it’s the support of a partner determined to do whatever it takes to get you into housing that works for you.
These authentic, real-life stories are critical to our success at Solid Ground, because without them we have no way of sharing with our community why our work is so critical and worthy of your support. That’s why, during this season of gratitude, I’m so thankful to the Solid Ground residents and participants who have shared their stories of strength, resilience, and hope over the last year.
Your investment in Solid Ground helps community members connect with resources, heal, and thrive.
Kim McGillivray, a member of Solid Ground’s Community Accountability Council, is absolutely fearless when it comes to speaking truth to power. Listening to her story early this year, I was moved by her razor-sharp wit and the wisdom that can only come from real-life experiences with poverty and the systems that are supposed to help but often do more harm.
In 2022, Kim agreed to speak at one of Solid Ground’s Social Justice Salons to share her experiences navigating our government’s famously convoluted social services programs to access support. Asked why social service programs aren’t more customer-friendly, Kim was quick with a blunt response: “Because we’re not the customer. We’re seen as leeches, for lack of a better word, and we are to be picked off and discarded.”
That moment of brutal honestly was just a taste of the perspective that Kim generously shares with us through her service on the CAC. (Read more about Kim in Transforming hard truths into meaningful change.)
I’m also grateful to Ember Brotherton, an inspiring survivor of domestic violence who moved me personally with her stories of trauma and triumph. Her insights about how the human mind works in the wake of severe trauma gave me a new appreciation of my colleagues who provide support and guidance at our Broadview Shelter and Transitional Housing.
In fact, I was nearly moved to tears when I got a chance to see firsthand as Ember was reunited with her former Broadview case manager, who literally held Ember’s hand through some of the most difficult moments along her journey into a new life. (Read more about Ember’s story in Reclaiming ‘humanity’ after surviving trauma.)
I was also moved by an email I received last summer from David Grech, a resident at Sand Point Housing who has one of the most positive outlooks on life that I’ve ever encountered. David wrote me to express his gratitude for Ruben Rivera-Jackman – a behavioral health specialist who comes to Sand Point each week to meet with residents – but David also had some kind words to say about the rest of the Sand Point staff.
“Ruben is a great example of the incredible dedication of the people who work here, and I hope you can please do your best to thank him,” David wrote. “You are all just angels in disguise.” (Read David’s full email, ‘Angels in disguise’ – A letter of gratitude, and look for a story about him on our blog in 2024.)
I also feel really lucky to have gotten a chance to get to know Michelle Flickinger and her adorable son Kaylan, who was quick to jump in my lap while Michelle and I chatted in their Solid Ground apartment. Michelle is a seemingly tireless student, mother, and artist whose energy and non-stop ideas often feel infectious.
“I can see the happiness for us,” she told me in one of several conversations. “I’m hanging on to it, because I can feel it every day again, that light, that gratitude, that perseverance in my bones. I can feel it with certainty again; nothing can take that away now.” (Read more of Michelle’s story in Envisioning the way forward.)
I’m also indebted to Rochelle Love, who was willing to share her story of perseverance as well as her gratitude for her case manager, Victoria Meissner, who was there to help her overcome countless obstacles as she worked to open a new chapter in her life.
As Rochelle told me, “I’ve been through a lot of things, and she’s the only person in my 43 years of life who’s done what she’s done for me.” (Read the rest of Rochelle’s story in ‘Back to being me’: How a little stability can reunite a family.)
Sharing these stories with me and with the world can be incredibly difficult, even painful. It often involves recalling trauma that is still just below the surface, and talking about challenges that people understandably do not want to define their lives. So every time I reach out to someone about potentially sharing their story, I tell them my first priority will be to make sure it’s the story that they want, told in the way that makes them the most comfortable. From that first conversation to the moment we hit “publish,” they have the power to decide how their story is told – and whether it’s told at all.
And while Solid Ground does provide a monetary honorarium to everyone who shares their story with us, we know it’s not nearly enough to reflect the true value of participant stories to us as an organization. So thank you Kim, Ember, David, Michelle, and Rochelle for sharing your stories and inspiring us to keep doing this work. You mean everything to us.