Cultural Competency Committee

One of the most rewarding experiences I have had working at Imagine Housing has been as part of the Cultural Competency Committee (CCC.)  Imagine Housing formed the CCC last year and it is made up of Imagine Housing employees, Board members and staff from our property management company, FPI Management.  As a committee we identified the following goals for what we hope to achieve:

    • Identify, incorporate and live best practices in cultural competency
    • Diversify staff and Board
    • Deepen understanding of institutional racism and poverty
    • Develop a common language to discuss cultural competency
    • Conduct an external review of policies and practices and improve our policies and practices based on this review
    • Engage and reach out to a broader audience
    • Reduce barriers to people accessing our organization, including our leadership positions
    • Build awareness and valuing of the existing diversity among our staff and Board
    • Make improvements from a place of increased knowledge and awareness
    • Lead conversations and advocacy regarding poverty, oppression and homelessness in the broader community

A few months ago staff, property management and Board members viewed the RACE: ARE WE SO DIFFERENT? exhibit and participated in the workshops led by the City of Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative.  We started out by examining our own beliefs about race, advantage and justice.  By understanding and acknowledging our own biases, we are able to be more intentional about treating people fairly going forward.  We saw historical and contemporary examples of institutional racism in the exhibit and we had the opportunity to look at our own organization to make sure we do not perpetuate institutional racism here.

We have made progress on many of the goals we set.  We have rewritten our job descriptions to make sure they focus on essential job functions and welcome all qualified applicants.  We have streamlined our job posting process and have broadened our posting locations.  We are using more diverse interview teams and an anti-bias training video to help make sure the interview process is fair and nondiscriminatory.  We are working on getting property management forms and paperwork translated into different languages and making sure our resident screening process is not discriminatory.

It is exciting to see the progress we have made in such a short time, yet there is still much work to be done.  Becoming culturally competent is an ongoing process and I am glad we as an organization are engaged and committed to this important work.

~Hester Winn, Office Manager and HR Administrator

Transformation

Fifteen years ago, my husband and I got married and bought a house.  Since then, we have worked hard to make it into our home, a place we love and can be proud of.  With a project each year, we have, little by little, transformed it into just that.  Some projects have been small, like painting a room, and others have been much bigger, like a kitchen addition.  I enjoy seeing things transformed, which is why I have loved seeing our newest project, Velocity, go up at the South Kirkland Park and Ride, right next to our office.

2014.07.02 View of Velocity from NW corner 2Velocity is the first project I’ve seen being built since I started at Imagine Housing in October 2012.  It’s been exciting to see the progress as I come to work each day.  A couple of weeks ago, I was able to tour the property with Sibyl and Bob, who make up our Housing Development department, to see how the inside was coming together.  As we walked through some of the nearly finished units with a group of folks from Impact Capital, one of our partners, I couldn’t stop smiling and thinking of how the new residents were going to feel when they see their beautiful new homes.  We were all commenting on how nice the spaces felt and looked.  I wanted to move in, it was so inviting!

As we finished the tour and walked back toward our office, a couple of the folks from Impact Capital asked how many employees worked for Imagine Housing.  When we told them there were 20 employees, they were surprised.  They couldn’t believe that such a small number of people worked for an organization that was not only building Velocity, but also maintaining and supporting 12 other properties.

It’s possible because the people at Imagine Housing; from the 20 employees to the dozens of board members and volunteers, everyone involved is so passionate, knowledgeable, dedicated and hard working.  Little by little, I know that together we will find a way to provide housing on the Eastside to everyone who needs it.

~Cindy McKee, Accounting and Asset Management Associate

 

Move in Day, or, a Place to Hang Your Posters

As a property manager, when you receive notice that you will have a vacant apartment you usually think about getting it rented, cleaned, etc. You go through the processes of finding someone on the waiting list that qualifies and is ready to move. Sometimes we make dozens of phone calls, emails, and letter sending just to find one person. While that clock ticks down to get a home filled it can become stressful as you go through screening, qualifications and the move in process. Between day to day activities it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the process. Sometimes, though, you encounter someone who helps remind you why it is so worth it to fight this battle that we do with affordable housing. Each wait list application is someone’s housing chance. We see that. We hear you, we respect that.

The resident that just moved into Rose Crest helped remind me of why I love working at an Imagine Housing community. From the moment I made contact with this person I knew I was about to witness something special. A resident who has overcome more challenges and climbed more mountains showed me what the real meaning of determination is. Move in day was an experience. She has shared some information with me about her past and I knew this was huge for her. As I handed her the keys to open HER front door for the first time, I saw her overcome with emotions. I watched her take a deep breath before she slowly unlocked the door, and wave of security fell over her as her and her family walked in. She walked into see a beautiful clean home, and as her kids walked from room to room envisioning their lives she knew she had made the right choices. She had made the right choices all along, and it was all coming together now, at that moment. After the inspection she asked if she could give me a hug and of course I hugged her. I remember her daughter telling me that she had been saving One Direction posters to finally hang up somewhere, and she was in the room she picked the whole time during inspections imagining what they would look like hanging up.  Her advocate was in attendance also and we were just in awe of how glowing she was. I couldn’t help but look at her and just tell her how much love was around her, and that I was so glad she gets to call Rose Crest home.

During lease signing beforehand I introduced her to the services staff, and she said she already felt so supported just knowing she would have a team available to help her with this transition.

I saw her today and she kept telling me how grateful she was to be here at Rose Crest. Honestly, I am the grateful one. She said how her kids felt comfortable, and last night her daughter stayed up until 2am hanging up her posters. The resident told me how much that meant, that her daughter felt comfortable enough to hang something up that wouldn’t be taken down after everything they had been through. She started to tear up and so did I. I could feel her pain and relief.

Thank you resident, you make the most challenging days’ worth it.

~Jessica Fern, Senior Community Director, FPI Management, Inc.

Summer Camp Season!

Summer time can be difficult for the families living at Imagine Housing properties. Summer camps are expensive and scholarships for these programs are hard to come by. Yet, summer should be a fun, engaging time to learn and explore for all children, no matter their family income. The belief that all children deserve a great summer is part of what drives Imagine Housing to provide free summer programming at our properties.

Imagine Housing is offering summer programming at 5 of properties to children ranging from age 5-12. These programs are designed to be engaging, fun and help the youth learn and grow. At our Rose Crest property in Issaquah, the youth enjoy programming 3 days per week. Each Monday, the session is crafted around learning about food and cultures, with a different country of focus every week. The kids get to participate in hands-on cultural cooking activities, while learning about the countries these food come from. They get to walk away with a very simple, low-cost recipe to take home and share with their families.

In addition to healthy, cultural cooking, the youth at Rose Crest enjoy one day per week that is fully dedicated to healthy lifestyles and staying fit, while building community.  Each Tuesday at the program at Rose Crest, the session is focused around staying physically fit and building community.  The kids participate in active games, which facilitate them getting to know each other and building a welcoming environment within the program. The program also invited Hope Heart Institute back to the property again this year to help teach the kids about heart health and wellness through fun games and learning activities.

The third day of programming at Rose Crest is all about the natural world around us. During the Thursday sessions, kids learn from the staff member, Luis Manzo, and invited guests (including the Humane Society, the Eastside Audubon Society and the Burke Museum) about animals, nature and how to care for the earth. These types of enriching programs keep the kids at Imagine Housing excited about learning and growing during the summer months.

We are so proud to offer high quality programming to the youth living in our communities year-round!

A Search For a Home…

I have been searching for a new place to call home after renting a house for the past year with three other roommates. At first, I looked for a one bedroom apartment for myself. When I could not find anything within my price range, I decided to keep one of my roommates and to look for a two bedroom apartment. At first, we decided that our budget would be $1,500, with a goal of being no more than 15 minutes away from work. There we were, two people who work in the social services field on the Eastside, looking for something we can afford. After searching for a whole week, we had to increase our budget to $1,600. Even with the increase, we have been struggling to find a place that is close enough to our work.

Throughout my search, I have been reminded of why Imagine Housing plays an important role in providing affordable housing. The property I work at, Andrew’s Glen, has 20 transitional units reserved for formerly homeless veterans. I have had to help several residents over the past year to search for affordable permanent housing on the Eastside. It is a long and strenuous process to find a one bedroom apartment under a thousand dollars, yet even that is still out of the price range for many. We often end up finding a permanent unit for those veterans at one of our own Imagine Housing properties.

I personally understand the struggles of finding affordable housing, which are faced by the residents we support. I appreciate and value our organization’s mission more than I ever did. On the Eastside, we still have a strong need for permanent and affordable rental housing.

~Monirul Hawke, Resident Support Specialist