Written by Denise Miller, Firesteel Advocacy Manager
“I’ve really gotten into the drawing and the painting,” Sam* tells me while showing off her sketches. “I finally found a passion in something — a passion I haven’t found in anything else I’ve ever done.”
An Air Force veteran and mother, Sam had long struggled with clinical depression, social anxiety and performance anxiety. She says she was always trying to be what she thought others wanted her to be, and didn’t really know herself.
When she left a bad relationship, she had nowhere to go. She spent two years without a home.
“I had a midlife crisis and an identity crisis at the same time, and I was trying to find myself,” she says. “I was moving about all the time, and it was a nightmare.”
Sam found YWCA Angeline’s Women’s Center, and eventually moved into an affordable studio apartment at YWCA Opportunity Place. There she found stability. And through her new home, she found her passion. A housing case manager connected Sam with Path with Art, an organization that offers free art classes for adults who are rebuilding their lives.
Sam took a poetry class that helped her process the death of an uncle. She now shares the poem she wrote about his passing with other people who are coping with loss; it’s helped her connect and find community.
“My art not only helps me help others, but it helps me help myself. It feels like I finally have a way to express myself and release my feelings,” she says.
Last fall Sam discovered her newest loves: painting and drawing.
“It’s given me more confidence in myself because it’s something that I’m good at. I’ve never been able to find anything that I’m particularly good at until now,” she says. “And I feel like I have a goal.”
It all started with a home
Stability, community, better emotional health, a sense of purpose — it all started with a home.
Sam survives on her Social Security benefits, which total about $700 a month. There is no way she could afford a market-rate studio apartment in Seattle on that income. Thankfully, the monthly rent on her subsidized apartment is around $200. Though it’s hard to take care of other basics with the remaining $500, Sam manages. She’s grateful to have a safe place.
Sam’s home at Opportunity Place was supported by the Seattle Housing Levy. Since 1981, Seattle voters have passed affordable housing ballot measures that helped to produce and preserve more than 12,500 affordable apartments for seniors, low-wage workers and their families, and neighbors who are living with a disability or transitioning out of homelessness.
This month, Seattle voters are receiving a ballot that includes an opportunity to pass a new Housing Levy that will fund at least 2,150 additional apartments that will be kept affordable for 50 years or more, while providing emergency rental assistance to prevent homelessness for 4,500 families.
Sam says she will vote YES on the Levy, and hopes her neighbors will, too. Our past investment in affordable homes has made a difference for Sam, and future investment will help thousands of other individuals and families find stability, safety, and maybe even a life-changing passion.
What you can do
If you live in Seattle:
- vote YES on the Housing Levy, and remind your friends, family and co-workers to do the same
- tweet about #YesForHomes on the Housing Levy social media day of action, Wednesday, July 20
If you live outside Seattle:
- start conversations, online and in-person, about the need for affordable homes in your community
- stay tuned for actions you can take to advocate for affordable homes across Washington state
*This person’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.