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Housing Hope offers testimonials, plans for future
SMOKEY POINT An emotional tale of recovery from loss served as the centerpiece of Housing Hopes third annual North County Community of Hope dinner at the Hawthorn Inn and Suites March 13.
Housing Hope North County Board member Steve Peiffle explained that the organization provides emergency shelters and transitional housing in downtown Arlington, affordable rental housing in Smokey Point, Marysville and Stanwood, sweat equity programs in Arlington and condominiums in Stanwood.
While Housing Hope Executive Director Ed Petersen provided facts and figures on the organization, Christina Allen, a resident of the Maple Leaf Meadows housing in Smokey Point, offered a more personal perspective.
Allen is a single mother of two children, ages 8-11, who was joined at the event by her case manager, Lori Fenton. Allen agreed to speak before the dinner attendees to pass on two pieces of information.
One, what happened to me could happen to just about anyone, Allen said. Two, it is sometimes really hard to ask for help. Its nice to know that there is a place you can go and not only get treated respectfully, but also have an opportunity to fix your situation yourself. I honestly do not know where I would be without Housing Hope.
Allen had been employed in an upper-management position for six years before she lost her job. Without that steady source of income, she soon lost her apartment and her car in turn, and found herself feeling unable to cope or recover. This feeling was not helped by her inability to regain employment, nor by finding herself with nowhere else to live besides a relatives garage.
All it took was three months and everything Id worked so hard for was gone, including my health, Allen said. I was so depressed and stressed out about the situation I was in, I ended up being hospitalized with a complete nervous breakdown. My breakdown was my point of change. I decided I wanted my life to be better than it was at that time. I wanted something better for my kids. I wanted to pursue an education that I wasnt able to get earlier in life, but how was I going to accomplish that where I was?
Allen had heard of Housing Hope through word-of-mouth, and was informed of an opening at their shelter unit in Stanwood shortly after she applied. While having a roof over her head allowed her to regroup and renew her bond with her children, she knew she still needed to figure out where she would go after Stanwood, before she could accomplish her goals.
I felt like a plane hovering over head, being told I couldnt land yet, Allen said.
When Allen was accepted into the transitional housing program at Maple Leaf Meadows, she was told that she could remain in the program for up to two years, as long as she followed basic rules and worked hard to improve her situation.
Because of Housing Hope I have done just that, Allen said. The minute that I stepped foot into my new apartment, I felt like I had finally landed. Because of the stability, I was able to focus on my personal issues rather than on survival. I could give more attention to my relationships with my family, my kids and even myself. I was finally able to address my dreams and goals and take action for a change. I am in a community of people who are in the same situation and these families act as a support group for one another.
Allen moved into Maple Leaf Meadows in February of last year and within the next month shed enrolled in Everett Community College. Shes recently completed a full year of college with a B-plus average, and is looking forward to completing her remaining year of school to earn her medical assistant degree.
Because Im at Housing Hope, I will be able to get that degree, Allen said. School has been very therapeutic and my self esteem has improved greatly. I have been a positive role model for my kids and I am no longer on the medications that I was on.
Allen credited Fenton with helping her create budgets and stay focused on her priorities, but shes also gained a sense of accomplishment in her own right.
The heavy platter full of negatives that I felt like I was carrying around now feels like a light platter full of positives, Allen said. I have attainable goals and something to look forward to. Housing Hope has given me the opportunity to change my life for the better and fulfill personal dreams that would have been impossible in another situation. Because of them, I have more time with my children and a chance to improve my financial situation for the future. I am thankful to them for being there when I needed it the most.
Allens story was received with a standing ovation from the crowd, and Petersen pointed out that Allen is far from alone in her situation. He cited the 112 homeless families for whom the organization had provided emergency shelter in 2007, the 350 homeless families for whom they provided transitional housing, and the 193 families whom theyve set on the path toward home ownership through sweat equity.
Petersen presented the concept design for a Lincoln Hill Village, a 24-family living, learning and community center that he promised would soon be developed in Stanwood. Not only does the project propose to include apartments for 24 families, but also classes, case workers and a commons area.
When you contribute your time or talent, theyre treasures that mean more than you might think, said Petersen, before Housing Hope solicited donations.
To learn more about Housing Hope, you may call them at 425-347-6556, or log onto www.housinghope.org.