A husband and wife emigrate to Seattle from Ethiopia, seeking a better life for themselves and their three sons. They’ve just arrived in the country. They don’t know many people here, but they do have an old friend to stay with as they start their new life.
Eleven people under one roof. Twenty days in, it’s too much and they have to leave.
A family of five with nowhere to live.
That was the reality for Samuel and Saba this past summer. A new to the country to call home, but nowhere to go home to. They were lucky enough, so to speak, to find a homeless shelter, one where they could all stay together – it’s not uncommon for some shelters to take only men or only women and children.
Shelter life was especially difficult on their children. “We sleep with so many people around us. This is also a new experience for us,” Samuel says. The lack of privacy, the constant chatter from strangers. “We can tolerate it, but the children cannot.”
The hardest part was finding somewhere during the day while the shelter is closed. One of the places they would spend time was Rainier Valley’s Ethiopian Community in Seattle (ECS), of which United Way of King County is a sponsor.
Scratch that. The hardest part was the worry about the coming school year. How do you register three boys for school when you have no address? No school district?
A Kenmore friend of a friend let them live with her while ECS helped them find an apartment. The kids registered with the district, happy to start school. Muslim Housing Services would help pay for an apartment, with the stipulation that it had to be in Seattle proper. The Department of Social and Health Services would also help pay, and between the two, plus a security deposit from ECS, the family moved into a two-bedroom apartment. The children switched school districts.
Samuel was then able to concentrate on getting a job to pay for food, school supplies and other necessities while they got on their feet. He started work at a job at a gas station, but it added a three-hour round trip on public transit every day.
Worse, it put the family over the income threshold for benefits. Because he made more than $700 a month, DSHS cut off the rent payments. Most of his paycheck had to go rent and the family felt the familiar anxiety of struggling to make ends meet.
It might feel like a step back for every two steps forward, but the family is hopeful.
“We are very delighted to be here,” says Samuel. “The people in the USA they are very kind and so peaceful and cooperative in every way.”
Everyone deserves the tools they need to create a safe, stable life. We support Ethiopian Community in Seattle because we’re driven to connect immigrants and refugees to resources they need to build that life here. Saba, Samuel and their three sons are why we live united for EQUITY.