To the editor:
I had the opportunity to share my story at the Housing Resource Board, Rise and Shine Breakfast on Sept. 29. Who would think that sharing a story of medical crisis and housing instability would bring a crowd, including community leaders, to stand in applause?
That reaction, to rise and shine for a cause, says everything about the community of Bainbridge Island.
I was raised with a strong sense of community and belonging. Following graduate school I worked successfully as a licensed mental health counselor. Six years ago a medical disability took everything my children and I knew, including our home and community.
Now divorced my children and I scurried to find a place to live. We lived above a garage in a studio apartment, in a cabin on a friend’s property, we moved, reorganized and moved again.
Unstable housing frays you, wears you down and literally displaces you. Your family show signs of worry and insecurity. Your once strong sense of esteem and confidence becomes as unstable as your circumstance. Where do you turn?
I had done my graduate school internship at Helpline House so walking through their doors to ask for help was not easy, but out of desperation I finally surrendered. They welcomed me not only with compassion but with resources, and continue to do so. At the time they directed me to approach Housing Resource Board.
How blessed we were that we were welcomed into the Island Home Transitional Housing and Voucher Program, a collaboration between Helpline, HRB and HUD. Finding a place to land, a place to call home, and having time to heal restored us. After two years of completing the program I received a Section 8 voucher and a kind Island family opened their rental home to us; taking on the extra paperwork and stigma that comes with such a voucher.
At the breakfast there were three other women who had also participated in the program and are now success stories.
One was able to find employment, stabilize and is active in the HRB board, one opened up a local successful restaurant, the other bought a unit in the Ferncliff affordable housing project and is working full-time at a well known Island site. I am determined to work with HRB and like-minded neighbors to get transitional housing back on the Island. Won’t you join me?
Each of us needed time to "get it together" and having a system in place allowed us to become positive and contributing members of the Bainbridge Community. Sadly, HUD pulled their funding from this program. HRB continues to work on behalf of local housing issues with programs like HomeShare, Independent Living, affordable rentals and homeownership. Transitional housing is no longer available and Section 8 housing is hard to come by.
I am in the process of having to move again. Unfortunately, HRB cannot help me with transitional or Section 8 housing. I am determined to work with HRB and like-minded neighbors to get transitional and crisis housing back on the Island.
This stirs a revolution inside of me. Is there a place for us? Do we have a place to belong, to be seen and to contribute?
Please know my sincerity and my desire to give back. Know my desperation to be part of a community I have known since 1985. If for one minute you can empathize with us, you just might fight for us, and all those in need of transitional or Section 8 housing like us.
Standing on this edge of potential unstable housing has me pleading for you to own the fact that you can make a difference, please do what you can. Support the agency that is meant to fulfill the need of affordable and accessible housing on our beloved Bainbridge Island, The Housing Resource Board. A shared project between agencies and one family changed our lives by providing us a place to belong and you can change the lives of other families in need.
In doing so, you allow those in a housing crisis or imperfect situations to rest their heads and sleep well knowing that they have a community that cares and a place to call home.