COMMUNITY IMPACT: Shelly Hu and Mark Jiang
In 2014, real-estate agents Shelly Hu and Mark Jiang bought property on Fife Street in Tacoma to use for a senior care home. It had been abandoned for several years. When the renovation required more funding than they had, they put it back on the market. In November 2015, while showing the building to a potential client, Mark saw an older couple had built a tent next to the building and were living in it. The couple was homeless and Mark was shocked to learn that there were at least three groups of homeless seniors in the area. Reflecting on their own journey, Mark and Shelly knew they needed to help. They came across Associated Ministries and found a match in mission that could help make their vision a reality. Their building now provides permanent, affordable housing to 50 vulnerable seniors.
SUSTAINABILITY: Heritage Bank & Tacoma Housing Authority
This year we are recognizing a different kind of sustainability: Helping kids build assets to pay for qualified education or training programs after high school graduation, through a Children’s Savings Account [CSA]. For students living in THA’s New Salishan community and registered at Lister Elementary School in Salishan, THA opens a Heritage Bank savings account and deposits $50. THA will match deposits up to $400 each year until the child completes fifth grade with an account of up to $4,850. Students who go on as sixth graders at nearby First Creek Middle School can set up a savings reward system driven by incentives developed with their school counselor, like improving school attendance and taking college-prep courses. Every time a student meets a goal, partners like Heritage Bank deposit money into their account. Kids can earn up to $700 per year through high school graduation. Combining these elementary, middle school, and high school opportunities can total up to $9,750 in savings by high school graduation. Heritage has committed $500,000 to help ensure the program’s success. From 2016 through 2022, the partnership will help fund savings for about 80 students from kindergarten through 12th grade, plus an additional 60 middle school through high school students.
INNOVATION: Access Point for Housing Team
The Family Permanent Housing (FPH) Team coordinates Associated Ministries’ Rapid Rehousing (RRH) efforts in Pierce County. Access Point 4 Housing, managed by Associated Ministries, Catholic Community Services, Greater Lakes Mental Health and Comprehensive Life Resources, is the county’s centralized point of contact for all homeless households. The team handles over 1,000 inquiries every month, screening to prioritize those living on the street, in temporary shelter, in a place not meant for human habitation, or in a vehicle. The team reaches out to landlords with a vision of how AM can support their businesses (filling vacancies, providing mediation, using case management to prevent evictions, etc.) with an important opportunity for landlords to actively join the urgent cause of ending homelessness in our community. The FPH team offers valuable public recognition and thanks for these landlords’ support with a monthly Community Pillar Award. Through the team’s work, 45 households have secured permanent housing thus far in 2016, more than double the number in all of 2015. And only 4% of those families have returned to homelessness, compared to a County-wide average of 15%.
ADVOCACY: Connie Ladenburg, Pierce County Council Member
The lack of affordable housing for low-income households and the large number of homeless people in Pierce County is at a crisis level, and one of the strongest leaders for turning that around is Council Member Connie Ladenburg. In her role as Tacoma City Council Member 2001-2009 she served on the leadership team of a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness, supported many efforts to increase the availability of affordable housing in Tacoma, and championed the homeless. As Washington State Representative in the 2011 legislative session, among other efforts, she worked to protect and assist homeowners from unnecessary foreclosures. Now a member of the Pierce County Council, she continues her support for the homeless and for more affordable housing for low-income households. She also serves on the Community youth services – Pierce County advisory board, working to house unattached youth and young adults.