Affordable housing, yesterday and today

I have an embarrassing confession: Despite having spent two years studying public administration, last week I attended and spoke at my very first City Council meeting. There were a lot of emotions involved for me: guilt that I had not done this before; exhilaration at standing in front of the room and addressing the council; fear that protestors in the audience were there to protest me; pride in the mission of my organization; and a little starstruck when I stood next to the Mayor to accept the Affordable Housing Week proclamation and shook his hand.

I have to admit, it was a great first experience. I made it through my whole statement, despite my heart pounding because of my inexplicable but life-long fear of public speaking. There was polite applause after my comments, and nobody spoke in opposition to affordable housing in their community. I received the signed proclamation, as anticipated. It all went very smoothly.

I couldn’t help but think about how advocating for affordable housing was not always like this. Even just a couple of years ago, I would have been faced with adamant opposition to building affordable housing in some communities (for a dramatic example, go watch Show me a Hero on HBO).

Not now. As King County grows rapidly up and out, and as inequality and homelessness reach crisis levels, attitudes are changing. People even applauded after I thanked the Council for their part in bringing affordable housing to their community. Suddenly, more cities genuinely want to be a part of a solution, and are ready to work with organizations and welcome affordable housing into their jurisdictions. Not everyone is there yet—there is still hesitation amongst some community members, but I can feel the change happening around us. I can sense that people are beginning to understand how important it is to support the most vulnerable in our communities, and that investing in preventing homelessness is infinitely better than trying to address it after the fact. While I’m somewhat disappointed that it has taken us until 2016 to get to this place, I am grateful that we are on our way to sound public policy around housing and acceptance of our neighbors with lower-incomes.

I am full of gratitude and optimism today. And as we celebrate Affordable Housing Week, I look forward to participating in more productive conversations on this topic.

~Kathryn Jacoby, Operations Coordinator

Celebrating my coworkers

Last week, offices around the country celebrated a very special day – Administrative Professionals Day! Started in 1952 as National Secretaries Week, this day (or sometimes weeklong celebration) has evolved throughout the last 64 years, incorporating more roles as workplaces grow and change.

Instead of singling out anyone in my office, I want to take this opportunity to celebrate all of my amazing coworkers. One of the things I love about working at Imagine Housing is the camaraderie and enthusiasm to pitch in when someone, or an entire department, needs help. In the Fund Development department we tend to need the most help from our caring and giving coworkers. For instance, in the two weeks leading up to our annual auction, the office takes an all-hands-on-deck attitude with everyone lending a helping hand.

Some of these Fund Development projects have become an annual tradition that people look forward to. Every December we invite staff to help stuff holiday cards that are sent to more than a thousand of our closest friends and supporters. These cards are hand stuffed, sealed, and stamped. This task has evolved into a party, with snacks of course, that staff members anticipate every year. Beyond wanting to send a token of our appreciation to our supporters and friends, this “stuffing party” gives us all a chance to chat and hear about all the great things each department is working on. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect and build community within our office.

So thank you Megan, Fred, Sue, Soren, Marsha, Sibyl, Sido, Shayla, Kathryn, Chris, Bob, Suzanne, Rachel, Cindy, Beth, Whitney, Amanda, Hester and Agazi for your dedication and commitment to our mission and to your work. You are amazing people and I’m thankful to work alongside you serving our community.

~Monique Vague, Philanthropy Administrator

Farewell to Cindy

With my last day at Imagine Housing quickly approaching, I am both excited to move on to new, unknown adventures and sad that I’m leaving a great organization. When I came to work at Imagine Housing three and a half years ago, I was looking for an organization with a mission in which I could connect. My prior employer left me very disenchanted with my work and I thought a mission-based job might be a good fit. What a breath of fresh air it was to encounter the caring and respectful people at Imagine Housing who are so passionate about their work! I have to admit, I was a bit guarded at first because I’d never seen such a thing in the workplace, which told me I’d been in the wrong place for quite a while.

My time here has allowed me to learn so many new things, experience staff act in such kind ways and show compassion to our residents as I’d never seen. My co-workers have taught me to be more patient, tolerant and kind to others, and I’ve grown so much as a person. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to work with wonderful people and a wonderful organization and that I felt so encouraged to continue working here because of all the great things we do for our neighbors on the Eastside.

It’s not easy to say goodbye, so I won’t. I’ll be following Imagine Housing to see what great things are done and you’ll likely see me back at the auction volunteering next year. Keep up the good work and always remember to be kind to one another.

~Cindy McKee, Accounting Associate

Welcome Soren!

As a recent college graduate, I was conflicted about exactly what I wanted to do with my life after graduation. I have a myriad of interests, most of which involve some creative element. In college I majored in writing, but I took dozens of art classes including photography, ceramics, and painting. I cook every single day—sometimes three times a day (mostly because I love to eat, and bring people together). Summer time is my favorite season; I could basically live outside and be completely content. To be honest, I have always had so many hobbies I found it difficult to decide what I wanted to do with my life.

When I started volunteering feeding the homeless population in downtown Reno, NV during high school, I found the greatest personal satisfaction I have ever felt. I just never knew how to translate my love for volunteering into a career. My desire to help others, paired with an affinity to create—anything and everything—left me feeling that I had no concrete direction as I faced the post-college world. Then I applied for the job of Veterans’ Activity Coordinator for Andrew’s Glen. I had never heard of Imagine Housing, but I loved the idea of working for a nonprofit that provided housing to those in need.

I not only come from a family of veterans, I also come from a background of homelessness and family hardships. When I was a baby, my mother lived on the streets of Seattle with two small children under her care. It was through sheer perseverance and the kindness of strangers that my mother put herself through nursing school. That is why Imagine Housing was so appealing to me, because I understand how important programs like this are for our community. I am grateful that I have this chance to help people that are now where my family and I have been. I am also excited about being able to utilize my many skills and hobbies to inspire the residents of Andrew’s Glen to learn, to express, to create, to laugh, and ultimately to come together as a community.

I was so excited after the first interview that I went home and wrote out a list of 41 ideas for possible activities, and immediately emailed it to the Beth—the Resident Support Supervisor at Andrew’s Glen. This job inspired me so much that I hoped they would be able to utilize my ideas regardless of whether I was hired. Being able to create a fun and inclusive community environment for the residents of Andrew’s Glen is such a rewarding prospect for me. The Pacific Northwest has so much beauty and possibility to offer, I can’t wait to share that with my new community. My only hope is that the residents of Andrew’s Glen are equally rewarded by this experience. When it’s all said and done, I am here for them.

~Soren Browning, Activities Coordinator

National Equal Pay Day

April 12th marks the 20th anniversary of National Equal Pay Day.  It was created in 1996 as a public awareness event to demonstrate the gap between men and women’s wages.  According to a 2015 Census report, women earn 79 cents for every dollar a man makes.  The National Women’s Law Center reported that in 2012, the median earnings of American women working full time year-round were $37,791 versus men who earn a median income of $49,398.

The United States has the largest number of homeless women among industrial nations, and the highest number on record since the Great Depression.  Of the 42 million Americans living in poverty in 2011, 25 million, or 55 percent, were women. 

Research sponsored by Wider Opportunities for Women indicates that the biggest barriers to economic security for women are that they lack access to career paths that result in high-wage jobs and affordable housing options.

At Imagine Housing, we often witness the challenges of our residents to find jobs paying a livable wage that enable them to provide for their families and selves while maintaining housing.  Common barriers to housing such as debt, poor credit, past evictions, or criminal history do not solely impact women.  But when our female residents are earning less income with which to tackle their student loans or car payments, to buy groceries, or to pay rent, then it is clear that unequal pay disproportionately affects lower income households.

Let’s all work to provide women, with equal pay for equal work, and housing opportunities that are safe and affordable for them and their families. We all benefit from having our communities enriched by the economic empowerment of women.

~Beth Monkarsh, Resident Support Supervisor