No Housing in Seattle: Aeshia’s Story

A new job in a new city. A chance to start over. Next step: Housing in Seattle.

For Aeshia and her 11-year-old son Jermaine, it was all a dream come true. Sure, she still had to find a place to live and enroll Jermaine in middle school. But everything was falling into place, starting with a job offer at the VA Hospital in Seattle as an ICU nurse.

The dream didn’t last long. When Aeshia arrived in the Emerald city, she soon discovered that finding a home for her family was proving to be more than difficult—it was impossible.

Why? Bankruptcy.

Housing in Seattle + Bankruptcy = Nope.

Aeshia filed for bankruptcy a few months before, and it destroyed her credit. No landlord wanted to take a chance on her, and they didn’t have to. A dearth of affordable housing caused by Seattle’s swelling population means landlords can be choosy these days. Those with a credit stain of bankruptcy don’t stand a chance.

Aeshia stayed in a motel for more than a week hoping something would pan out. But after a steady chorus of no’s from landlords, her savings quickly dwindled.

That’s when she was forced to make the difficult decision to sleep in her car with Honey, her 120-pound Mastiff. Because Jermaine wasn’t joining her in Seattle for several weeks, she didn’t have to worry about her son’s safety…just her own. Aeshia says she wasn’t prepared for the heartbreak.

“It’s very difficult staying in your car. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. You see families out there with children, multiple children, babies living in their car.”

“Gotta make sure your cooler has ice in it.”

Without simple conveniences we all take for granted, Aeshia had to come to terms with her new reality for housing in Seattle. Basic questions like “What should I make for lunch?” now loomed large without a refrigerator.

“You get creative and organized—like making sure your cooler has ice in it. I kept drinks, lunch meat, food that I could access quickly.”

Aeshia also visited churches and women’s shelters that provide meals for homeless people. A church connected her with Congregations for the Homeless, one of 20 agencies that partners with United Way and our Streets to Home program to quickly move people into housing. The goal is to reach people before they ever enter the shelter system—because research shows the longer someone is homeless, the harder it is to escape homelessness.

Finally, Hope For Housing

When Aeshia learned how Streets to Home could help her end her housing in Seattle nightmare, she knocked on doors again—but this time filled with hope. She struck gold. A landlord in Renton decided to rent to her, but she had to put down a deposit plus first and last month’s rent. Congregations for the Homeless, using Streets to Home funding, covered those costs. This allowed Aeshia to rent her apartment, the place she and Jermaine now call home.

CONNECTIONS

The landlord, a veteran himself, said yes to Aeshia because of her work as a VA nurse and the nonprofits vouching for her. Those connections gave Aeshia a new chance at housing.

Streets to Home moved close to 600 people like Aeshia and Ron into housing last year. For some clients like Aeshia, outreach workers provide deposits to landlords. Others clients need help paying for a bus or airline ticket so they can reunite with a loved one in a different city. Flexible dollars allows staff to meet the client’s needs, whatever they may be, in order to get them housed. Funded by United Way donors, Streets to Home housed clients last year for an average cost of $770 per person.

Aeshia and Jermaine have settled in their new home, new school and new job with a new appreciation for what being housed really means.

I’m so grateful to United Way to have this home. It could have been harder. It could have been worse.

See the problem of homelessness, but don’t know where to start? You can provide security deposit for others like Aeshia, who just need that small barrier removed so they don’t have to be homeless.

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