Goodbye and thank you

Dear friends,

Tonight, with great gratitude, I say good-bye to my Executive Director role with Imagine Housing and Red Vines.  What I most want to say is thank you.

Imagine Housing and Red Vines are blessed with an incredibly talented and dedicated staff and Board and a very loyal and visionary group of supporters.  Together you form a uniquely welcoming and spirited community that I have been blessed to be a part of.  I have been honored to build relationships with so many of you.  Your vision, leadership, passion and deep caring have been a continual inspiration to me.  I never could have imagined what a transformative experience being the Executive Director would be for me.  I will carry the memories and sense of pride with me as I open a new chapter of my life.

Happy holidays to each of you.  Our world is better because of you.

With thanks,

~Ann Levine, Executive Director

Totem Lake II Update

This year Imagine Housing submitted a request for funding to The Washington State Department of Commerce, Housing Trust Fund for our Totem Lake Phase II – Senior (TL II) project in Kirkland.  Totem Lake Phase II would be built next door to our current Francis Village apartment homes.  This building would offer 95 senior residents an affordable, modern apartment community.

We were saddened to learn last week that we did not secure funding from the Housing Trust Fund this budget year.

The good news is that 14 projects throughout the State did receive funding which will provide nearly 800 low income families with homes in Washington.  The projects that secured a total of $28,620,000 are located in the following communities: Seattle (3), Olympia, Shoreline, Vancouver, Snohomish, Chelan, Mattawa, Othello (2), Pullman, Longview, Kelso, and Everett.  The funds will be used to leverage additional monies to provide homes for homeless veterans, farm workers, residents with developmental disabilities, and low income/formerly homeless seniors.  Our Eastside successfully secured $180,000 as part of a 3-bedroom group home project in Bothell and Kirkland.  Commerce is to be commended on stretching extremely limited resources and funding 15 of the 17 projects submitted in 2014.  Funding was designated to these projects in the order of priority are prescribed by the legislature when the LEAP (Legislative Evaluation & Accountability Program) List was established in 2012.  Totem Lake Phase II – Senior was 16th on the list out of 17 projects.

Even with this unexpected setback, Imagine Housing is still exploring out of the box ideas (private investment, corporate sponsors, benefactors) to break ground on this project.

There is still a critical need and demand for affordable senior housing in Kirkland and strong support for Totem Lake Phase II – Senior from the City of Kirkland, the Kirkland Senior Advisory Council, the Kirkland Senior Center, and the surrounding community.  Imagine Housing’s current waitlist has over 3,000 households seeking affordable housing on the Eastside.  At least 450 households, or 15 percent of the waitlist would be eligible for senior housing.  We anticipate at least 50 percent, or roughly 225 of those senior households, would be interested in living at Totem Lake Phase II – Senior.  This is in addition to interested senior households that are not currently on our waitlist.

We hope that you will ask your legislators to support adequate funding for the Washington State Department of Commerce, Housing Trust Fund in the 2015-2017 biennium budget so that we can continue building affordable homes for our neighbors on the Eastside.

~Sibyl Glasby, Director of Housing Development

Thank you for giving 58 families a new home

Velocity achieved 100% occupancy on November 14th and for my blog post I want to take a moment to reflect on our journey from an idea to our reality.

Construction started on Velocity November 14, 2013 and families began moving in on August 22nd. One year to the day from construction start (November 14, 2014), all homes had people living in them. Our total lease-up time was just 86 days. This is incredible! We owe this success to our wonderful partners.

Our design and construction team, SMR Architects and WG Clark Construction, worked so efficiently to complete this gorgeous building. Every detail was thought through and executed with the future resident in mind. The community spaces are constantly in use and the residents love the gas fireplace in the community room. It is such a warm and inviting place to be. I have to commend both organizations for their dedication to the families and the community this building will serve for years to come.

Additionally, our management team worked tirelessly to process applications and move in residents. Sido, Velocity’s property manager, has been amazing. Numerous times she stayed late and came in on her days off to get folks moved in. She found ways to expedite the approval process when families told her they were sleeping in their car, outside, or in shelters; working as quickly as possible to bring them home to Velocity.

Now that Velocity is fully leased our work still continues. Our Supportive Services team is helping families furnish their homes, coordinate transportation to work and school, and providing other assistance to the residents.

You may remember that when we opened the waitlist for Velocity, we had 481 applicants for 58 units. The list is only growing.  The need for affordable housing is so great on the Eastside, we have over 3,000 households on waitlists. We urgently need to build many more inviting places, like Velocity, for people to live. I can’t wait to get started on our next project!

Congratulations and thank you to everyone who had a part in creating this wonderful place 58 households now call home!

~Suzanne Koval, Director of Assets

Welcome Danny

Danny Almeida

Hello everyone, my name is Danny and I am an AmeriCorps member and joined the Imagine Housing team in September of this year.  I assist another Imagine Housing staff member, Frederick, with youth programming at Highland Gardens and am the lead youth program coordinator at Velocity.

I am a recent graduate of the University of Washington and I received my Bachelor of Arts in Community Psychology with an emphasis on child psychology.  Before I came to Imagine Housing I worked for a daycare in Yakima Valley that my mother owned.

I have a deep passion for children and I strongly believe in the mission and vision of Imagine Housing’s youth programs.  By empowering youth to reach their full potential through the provision of positive social-emotional development support and academic encouragement, our kids will inherit a sense of self-worth and strengths.

~Danny Almeida, Student Programs AmeriCorps Member

Groceries-to-Go

I began working as a Resident Support Specialist at two of Imagine Housing’s Issaquah properties this summer.  It quickly became apparent to me that Imagine Housing is a great organization providing not only affordable housing but necessary services as well.  Having worked in a homeless shelter previously, I saw a revolving door of people attaining housing but then losing it shortly after.  Because Imagine Housing provides more than just affordable housing and includes resident services, we are working to break this cycle of individuals finding their way back to homeless shelters.  Our Supportive Services staff are always available to answer questions and help residents navigate the often complicated systems they need to receive government and local aide.

This past summer, the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank contacted me about a pilot program they were hoping to start in October called “Groceries-to-Go.”  After surveying residents about their food needs and access to groceries at our Issaquah properties, it was apparent that this program would greatly benefit our residents; especially those with barriers including, lack of transportation, absence of a support network, and the elderly and disabled.

I referred 15 residents to the program from Rose Crest, Johnson Hill, and Mine Hill apartments.  The Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank met with residents to discuss the process and talk about each resident’s needs and barriers to accessing groceries and then made referrals to additional supportive services.

In the early morning of October 1st, I headed to the food bank to pick up the first order of groceries.  Each resident received a box of canned/dry goods and a bag of dairy items (milk, eggs, and yogurt).  Residents also received fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat.  Each week I deliver these groceries to the residents and together we fill out an order for the following week.  What is special about “Groceries-to-Go” is that these groceries are not a generic bag of food left at the front door, our residents pick and choose what food they want and will actually use rather than receiving items they won’t consume.

Delivering groceries every week has been a great joy and has given me a chance to connect with residents that don’t often stop by the office.  Many residents have shared with me that they now feel more connected to Imagine Housing and more comfortable reaching out for the services we provide.  By assisting residents with the cost of groceries they are able to take care of other needs like paying off bills, going to the doctor, and buying other necessities like school supplies for their children.

The “Groceries-to-Go” program is a great success at our properties.  I have referred additional residents to the program and we have now expanded to our Andrew’s Arms property.  Last week I was informed that the program will continue in the New Year!  I am excited to see the program continue to expand and help more residents in 2015.

~Lindley King, Resident Support Specialist