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Homeless in Seattle, WA

$3,290 of $7,000 goal

Raised by 34 people in 11 months
28878366_15229012210_r.jpegThe back story~ It seems like ever since I signed a lease with Seattle Housing Authority at the beginning of June 2016 things have been a non-stop downward spiral.  Instead of finally getting into a place where I could work a little less & apply for SSDI b/c of my disability, I found out rather quickly that SHA exploits the vulnerable & marginalized populations they serve.  They also break various regulations from city to federal, & when I would bring one up, they would simply tell me they didn't have to follow it.  One of them regarded how they calculated rent.  There are federal labor laws regarding temporary, intermittent work which limit employees to a certain number of hours a year. (This is the type of work I'm limited to given my chronic progressive illness).  SHA consistently projected my yearly salary beyond that cap, thus making my rent higher than what I should be paying.  Whenever faced with a tenant complaint, SHA either blames the tenant or ignores them (or both), which makes it virtually impossible to remedy anything.  When I started contacting politicians & agencies to see who had jurisdiction over SHA to try & resolve the issues, I found that they essentially had no oversight or system of checks & balances.  The more I looked into it, the more I found that others ran into the same problems as myself.  My activism made me a huge target at SHA, but I stayed & continued to stand up b/c I knew giving a voice to others who didn't have one was the right thing to do.  Before my eviction on March 20th, I had been experiencing months of retaliation from them.  (I won’t even go into all the Tenant-Landlord regs they break.) SHA legal was doing everything they could to try & shut me down to the point where they were specifically trying to infringe on my civil liberties & make my existence there as difficult & onerous as possible.  For the SHA attorney I was dealing with, she was out for a personal vendetta b/c I had reported her unethical conduct to the WSBA.  SHA knows they can get away with all this since it's a civil matter & their tenants can't afford attorneys.  This is the situation I was in when the eviction finally took place.  It was, needless to say, a very bad situation.

The current story~ Being homeless in Seattle is a double-edged sword.  Because we have the 3rd highest homeless population in the US, right behind NYC & LA, it is difficult to get emergency shelter, transitional housing &/or other resources.  The flip side is there are a lot of people living in tents, cars, & RVs, so no one really notices another person living in their vehicle.  Thankfully, the 1998 CRV I was able to purchase in Feb 2017 with gracious assistance of others is a great little vehicle, so I have been cozy & safe from the weather.   My issue now is looking longer term.  Realistically, I need to look at purchasing a small towable camper or RV for the near future as I don't anticipate getting any type of housing soon. (It took me 5+ yrs to get into SHA!)  Also, given the short notice of eviction, I had to rent a UHaul for a couple days & pack all my items into the nearest storage facility w/out having the time to get rid of things.  I am now sifting thru boxes on my days off, & doing donation runs, but it takes time, & storage in the city is costly.  With my health, I'm limited to what I can make working part-time, &  because of my medical disorders, it makes it difficult to move elsewhere.  It may be cheaper to live further away, or in another state, but it's taken me years to find these particular jobs that have the flexibility I need, so even if the rent is cheaper, I still would be in the same position if I couldn't get a job to pay for the rent & other basic necessities.  Tough position all around, so any contributions would be greatly appreciated.
Also, I've been looking for a pro bono attorney in the Seattle area, so if you know of anyone willing to take on SHA, it would be a very worthy cause.

A hopeful note for the future~ I have not given up the fight- if anything, I have even more resolve- & am working with a local org that has gotten housing policies changed in the past.  They believe I will be a powerful advocate.  There are so many others with stories like mine, & so it's important to keep pushing for change.

Thank you for listening....
Peace & Light, Sarah

Edit: In searching on Craigslist, I found that a small, decent RV that doesn't need a lot of work is a minimum of $5500-$6000.  From there, I would still need to pay tax & licensing fees, which is fairly high in WA state.
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Hello All!
It's been a chaotic past couple of months bouncing around, but there has been forward progress! I have been volunteering with Washington CAN to help with housing advocacy along with my part-time jobs. WCAN & the Housing Justice Project have been working on some housing & eviction research which they should be going public with soon. I recently sent another email to the Mayor & the Seattle City Council which apparently rattled some chains, so I will let you all know more about that when things are solidified. ;)
I also wrote an email to the interim Seattle Chief of Police after briefly speaking to her after a lecture which she gave. I explained how the exploitation of mariginalized tenants shouldn't be considered a civil matter, but a criminal one, specifically because of the populations involved. I don't think SPD can do anything, but at least it's on their radar.
As an aside, here's an interesting article that I just read on the cost of apts in Seattle (Yikes!): https://crosscut.com/2018/06/want-one-bedroom-seattle-youll-need-61k-salary
And lastly, if you know of anyone who needs petsitting in the Seattle area, send them my way!

Thank you again for everyone's kind words & support!
Peace & Light, Sarah
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I wanted to send out an update out to everyone. First off, if you live in the Seattle area, on Monday, May 21 at 5 PM - 8 PM, there will be a "Pack the Seattle Housing Authority Board Meeting", at their HQ on 190 Queen Anne Ave N in the Jesse Epstein Conference Room. Please come support us if you have the time! https://www.facebook.com/events/1531338813832404/

I also wanted to let everyone know that the donations have come in handy to be able to purchase some much needed "health & safety" items to my vehicle. I have been wanting to get my car windows tinted so that people could not look in at me or my belongings in the vehicle. Any info I've read about people living or travelling long term in their vehicles have said this is pretty crucial for safety. I was able to get a great deal on Groupon, & I hope to get it done soon. I had bought some really cheap pre-cut tint off of eBay, but the more I read, & the more videos I watched, it was clear that getting it professionally done was the better choice. Businesses use a higher grade material which doesn't degrade & change color over time, & it has a warranty.
Next up, was a set of economical cross bars. I have an old cargo box that I used for years on my previous vehicle, but my current one did not have cross bars on it, so it's been sitting in storage the past year+. SportRack is a Canadian brand that Thule bought in 2006, & it's their "entry level" rack brand. I was able to get a good deal searching around on the internet, & now I have my cargo box back on which allows me to get items out of my car that I don't regularly use, but still need to have around. It also keeps things out of sight.
Another purchase was a small, inexpensive all-in-one printer. I was able to get a brand new HP Deskjet 3755 for under $30 on eBay. When you apply for various social services, some want your most recent paychecks or other documentation, which you either bring in person, or scan & send. It's really hard when you don't have those options easily accessible. This makes it much easier, & it doesn't take up much space.

I've joined various FB groups for RV/van life, & have found it rather inspiring! It has only solidified my decision that this is the best choice for me at this juncture.
If anyone in the Seattle area knows of someone who needs petsitting, please pass my info along!

Peace & Light, Sarah
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I want to thank everyone for their kindness! Whether it be donations, words of support, places to crash, or petsitting jobs- everything helps! :)
As always, I continue my fight for housing advocacy. Just this morning I spoke at length with a reporter from Seattle Weekly via telephone regarding what changes are needed to the housing court & eviction process.
Here is an article from last month talking about how some low-income housing are using mutual termination agreements to exploit their tenants. The gentleman in this story was at a Washington CAN meeting I attended, so I'm glad that he was able to get some reprieve.
https://www.seattleweekly.com/news/forfeiting-rights-mutual-termination-agreements-gone-wrong/
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Well, the video Washington CAN took of me & the news story in The Stranger that I'm included in are both out today. Since I have a face for radio, I don't particularly like have my picture taken or being in videos, but it was for a good cause so if it can make a difference, why not?! The news story is more about evictions, so it doesn't include all the egregious things Seattle Housing Authority does to it's tenants (that would take up pages!), but it definitely makes some salient points, so I thank Heidi for writing it.
I think the article will help people understand at least a part of why I want to buy an RV to live in as well; a big reason being that in Seattle when you're evicted it stays on your record, making it very difficult to get any type of housing at all. There are also no guarantees that if I got into subsidized housing again, that the same exploitation wouldn't re-occur, so I need a roof over my head that isn't subject to the vagaries of landlords. Plus, if need be, I can move more easily to another city or state.
Anyhoohow, below is the email sent to me by Washington CAN with all the links.
Peace & Light, Sarah

Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 9:16 AM
To: Sarah Stewart
Subject: Stranger story and video up!

Sarah, Thank you so much for all your work on this. The Stranger story is pretty comprehensive in its take-down of unjust evictions in public housing. I think this will help bring this injustice to a broader audience, and you should feel proud of your role in this. (I bet your mom will be proud too.❤)

The video (which I updated with your edits) is here: https://www.facebook.com/WashingtonCommunityActionNetwork/videos/10155409625946828/

(youtube link here, but if you have a FB please share from the fb link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEV3i5HBlQg)

And the story FB link (if you have a FB share from this link, please!): https://www.facebook.com/WashingtonCommunityActionNetwork/posts/10155413363036828

Stranger link: https://www.thestranger.com/features/2018/04/25/26086363/evicted-over-49-what-happens-when-seattles-poorest-tenants-cant-make-rent

Thanks again, Sarah. I very much appreciate your dedication and work.
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Raised by 34 people in 11 months
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