”Money Doesn’t Fix Everything, but It Fixes a Lot of Things”
Eight years ago, Tilly Okyere and her husband were driving around Federal Way searching for a home and they found one that was still in the making. The Park 16 Apartments were under construction, but something about the sprawling community-to-be resonated; Okyere smiled and said to herself, “I’m going to live in this place.”
When it appeared as if an eviction was imminent, he gave in and she was able to find housing stability support, United Way of King County’s programs that help keep people in their homes. We’ve partnered with Housing Connector, a Seattle-based organization that provides housing access and resources to individuals and families in need to create a housing stability model complete with client-centered services and flexible financial assistance.
The program primarily serves tenants who identify as Black, Indigenous, or other people of color.
The program has been a godsend for Okyere, who in 2002 moved to the U.S. from her home in Kumasi, Ghana, the nation’s second-largest city and home to Kejetia Market (10,000 stores), which bills itself as the largest single market in West Africa. Community is everything; it’s what keeps her grounded and, having been part of Park 16’s community since its inception, Okyere dreaded the thought of having to pick up and begin anew somewhere else.
“I feel like home is a place where you can run to,” said Okyere. “A home is a shelter from strife, and a community is a place where you run into and feel safe. “[housing stability support] is such a great, great blessing. If we hadn’t signed up for this program. I don’t know where we would be right now. It was so bad at that time.
“My husband is someone who doesn’t like going out and ask for help—no, no, no. But it got to the point where there was nothing we could do. With the job loss, the little savings that we were able to accumulate all went up in smoke. It’s not easy to be in that type of situation. It brings about divorce. It tears up families. My husband was not at peace at that time. He was saying, ‘How are we going to pay for this, and how are we going to pay for that?’ There was no joy in our house.”
Marlo Klein, United Way senior community impact manager for eviction prevention and housing stability, said that with so few housing options available in the area, those who lose their housing are often at risk of falling into homelessness.
Many people experiencing homelessness can’t find affordable housing to move into as well, she said.
“Through our relationship with Housing Connector and the affordable housing provider, we’ve been able to stabilize people’s housing,” Klein said. “Where they were once at risk of being evicted or receiving a notice of noncompliance, through our tenant engagement process, many families have turned their negative rental history into a positive.”
Okyere said that due in large part to housing stability support paying off their back rent, she and her husband were able to get back on track financially. She said during the pandemic she came across many folks in her community with the same struggles, including some who did want to seek help. But she cautions them not to wait until it’s too late.
“There are a lot of resources out there, and it’s good to talk to people about it because if you don’t you will go out of your mind,” Okyere said. “You always need to go out and seek help. I tell my husband that if someone is in that situation and I am able to help them, I will not hesitate.
“Money doesn’t fix everything, but it fixes a lot of things,” Okyere added. “And if you feel like there is something out there that can help you, then you don’t have to wait.”