Farms for Life

This summer Imagine Housing started an amazing partnership with Farms for Life. Farms for Life is a non-profit that works with local farmers to purchase their excess produce and redistribute it to their community partners. We joined Farms for Life at the end of June and it runs through October 11th. This is their longest season so far!

So far this year we are serving 6 of our 13 properties with the produce we receive from Farms for Life. The response from our residents has been positive at each property, and our residents love the variety of produce they get each week. It is amazing to have conversations with our residents about what Kohlrabi (in the cabbage family) is or a Lemon Cucumber (a sweeter version of a cucumber that you can almost eat like an apple).

Each week, I distribute to Kirkland Plaza. Our residents are waiting outside for me to arrive and come to help me unload my car and set up the produce. I love getting to see their faces when they see the quality and type of produce come through each week. I know that fresh produce for many of our residents is something that can feel out of reach and this is a way to help support them. None of this would be possible without the support we receive each week from Farms for Life. I look forward to the growing season next year and what the future holds for us and our new partnership.

– Amanda Sherry, Resident Services Manager

Visit our Facebook page to see photos from our Farms for Life partnership.

Resiliency in the workplace

When we think of resilience, we often think about bouncing back and returning to a previous state after undergoing stress. In a fascinating training I attended by Lou Bergholz, I learned about resiliency and how we can foster it in the workplace and in our lives.

The definition Bergholz uses for resilience is “successful adaptation to adversity that equips you to be more skillful at handling future challenges.” I like to think of it as not only how do we survive the change or stress, but how do we emerge stronger and better for having gone through it?

It turns out that the most important factor in our resilience is having strong relationships and interconnectedness with each other. In an organization, resilience is built by working on a team. When teams spend time together, they learn to solve problems by listening to the diverse voices and perspectives represented on the team and having to rely on each other.

Teams provide a reality check for each other, help make sense of priorities, as well as validation of ideas. Individuals can ask for help from their team and receive help when offered. There is strength in group decisions.

Teams need time together to develop true interconnectedness for maximum resiliency. Keep teams together and provide training for managers since they set the tone and culture. Individuals, practice being there for each other. Organizations, create conditions that promote a caring culture.

Change and stress are not just part of life, but necessary for growth. Connect with and care about the people around you and you will be best equipped to handle the challenge.

~Hester Winn, Office Manager and Human Resources

Resident Action Project

One year ago, the Resident Action Project kicked off at Ellsworth House. The project brought together residents of affordable housing, people in need of affordable housing, service providers, and organizers. The goal was to create a movement that amplifies the voices of those who are often ignored, marginalized, and inadequately served by our policies and “social safety net.” RAP seeks to create one unified voice that demands action and change, and to have it come from people experiencing housing instability and financial hardships themselves.

One year in, we are still in our nascent stages. We have questioned how to plan effective meetings without being repetitive but still being welcoming to new members. We’ve had challenges building momentum, one of the greatest being simply access: it’s hard to plan a meeting in a place that everyone can get to, and it’s challenging for people with low-incomes and few resources to get around the Eastside without a car.

But we have still made a great deal of progress. Some of our members have shown up faithfully to every meeting and phone call. Some resident leaders have stepped up to create foundational documents and curriculum plans. Others have been fearless in their willingness to conduct outreach.

But…Imagine Housing is a housing developer. Why are we a part of RAP?

Imagine Housing is a housing developer, yes, but our mission and vision are greater than that. Our mission is to develop affordable housing, and to build welcoming communities and foster vibrant futures. And our vision is an Eastside with interconnected and welcoming communities where all people can live, learn, work and play. Yet 485 units of housing just isn’t enough to fulfill either of those in a rapidly growing and changing region. Nor is it enough to continue building subsidized housing—we must also stop the flow of people entering homelessness, and stop the rapid increase of names on our waitlists. Our waitlist increased 22 percent in seven months from June 1 to December 31, 2015. We now have more than 2,600 people waiting for one of our homes. We can keep supplying housing, but unless we also do more to combat the housing crisis from the demand side, we will never fully solve the problem.

So that is why we advocate. That is why we provide the opportunity to our residents to engage in RAP. That is why we want to encourage them to get involved, learn how to be advocates, and speak out on behalf of others who don’t yet have housing. Because no one should have to wait nine years to access housing they can afford. Even one year is far too long.

Last week, RAP had its forth gathering since its inception. Members received training on outreach and recruitment, and then practiced what we learned by making phone calls to invite more people to join the movement and come to the upcoming community night (interested? Shoot me a message!). Together, we committed to invite 138 new people to come to the next event. Two residents led some of the presentations. RAP has the potential to create leaders and empower residents to speak up and demand change. It also has the potential to help us build more housing and create stronger, connected communities.

I am excited that we have the opportunity to participate in RAP. I am hopeful that we can help bring together people who have long been marginalized and ignored and demand to be heard. I am positive that we can create a better society if everyone has an equal voice, equal access, and equal rights. And I am so inspired by those who have joined already, and have shown such dedication to this cause. It’s a difficult task ahead of us, but I have no doubt that we can make our voices heard and help create the change we want to see in our communities.

~Kathryn Jacoby, Operations Coordinator

Youth programming at Imagine Housing

HouseAs school ended this June, so did on-site Youth Programming at Imagine Housing. After eight years of providing engaging and exciting afterschool and summer programs for youth, Imagine Housing has decided to shift its focus towards partnering with other community afterschool programs to continue ensuring our kids are being supported. For some properties this means that Imagine Housing staff are supporting our families in accessing other youth programs currently offered in their community, such as the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA. For other properties where these community resources are slim, we are looking at partnering with other organizations to have on-site programs offered in the future.

This summer, we are thankful to be able to provide the Summer Lunch program at Rose Crest of Talus in Issaquah and Highland Gardens in Sammamish to ensure that our youth residents get nutritious meals when school is out. We are able to offer this through a new partnership with the YMCA and United Way of King County. This partnership provides two AmeriCorps members to facilitate lunch for kids ages 0-18 and a youth activity five days each week!

Additionally, we are also working on finalizing a future partnership with the YMCA to continue providing afterschool programs at Highland Gardens in the fall. We are so incredibly excited about this possible partnership and look forward to seeing the new ways in which our youth with be supported.

Imagine Housing remains committed to providing support for youth and their families at all of our properties and looks forward to working with other community organizations to make this happen!

~Rachel Mathison, Director of Supportive Services

Spreading KINDness this summer

A few weeks ago Imagine Housing received a donation of over 800 KIND Bars from KIND Snacks. These bars will be handed out at community events like summer barbeques at our properties to help spread the KINDness. We had our first of these events at Velocity this past Tuesday. We had a wonderful meal of hot dogs and hamburgers, baked beans, corn, salad, cantaloupe, and fruit and cake. With the help of our residents at Velocity who helped with set up to clean up, the event went off with flying colors!
To share the KINDness with our community, residents were provided opportunities in which they could volunteer in their local community including environmental stewardship tasks and public safety awareness. Residents were excited about the possibility of giving back, even if just in a small way. It was amazing to chat with our residents about the ways small acts of KINDness can make a big difference in the lives of others. Some residents even started spreading that KINDness by helping clean up after the evening event! I can’t wait to see how our residents will spread the KINDness this summer!

~Amanda Sherry, Resident Services Manager