CHH Leads Effort to Revitalize Local Alley as Pedestrian Zone

Capitol Cider held a benefit on July 20-21 for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. Credit: Capitol Cider

Public space isn’t limited to parks. It includes streets, sidewalks, and other outdoor places where we as a community can connect. Alleys such as Seattle’s Post Alley are important thoroughfares, casting a spotlight on businesses and creating pedestrian zones that avoid traffic. Several communities have taken on other projects of this nature, such as Nord Alley, created by the Alliance for Pioneer Square, and Canton Alley, spearheaded by the Seattle Chinatown International District Planning and Development Authority (SCIDpda).

With funding support from the Office of Economic Development and the Seattle Department of Transportation, Capitol Hill Housing is excited to help lead an effort to revitalize such a space nearby – one where neighbors can meet. The alley runs behind CHH’s own Broadway Crossing and also touches Capitol Cider, Neighbours Nightclub, the Erickson and Egyptian theaters, part of Seattle Central College, several local businesses, and a forthcoming affordable housing project.

In addition to answering a desire for more active, open spaces in our community, a restored alley (boarded up doors and windows are visible from outside) could help address existing challenges such as safety and cleanliness for nearby residents and customers and the dumping of trash.  The alley is also currently used by members of our community facing addiction and homelessness and we are exploring ways to integrate harm reduction services and other supports into the project.

“This is a great opportunity for the college and the Capitol Hill community. As an urban campus, we enjoy an eclectic student body and a vibrant, 24-hour neighborhood. Activating this alley will benefit the college and our neighbors,” says Lincoln Ferris, Consultant to the President at Seattle Central College.

We are committed to engaging community members in a process that respects and strives to meet the needs of everyone who currently uses and might use the alley. Public space belongs to everyone, and everyone should feel welcome. We have created a convening group that will help guide the community engagement process.

We are seeking other members for this group.  If you have a connection to the alley and are interested in getting involved please contact project manager Alex Brennan at abrennan@capitolhillhousing.org.

This group currently includes the following individuals:

Julie Tall, Owner of Capitol Cider
Lincoln Ferris, Seattle Central College
Brian Steen, Building Manager for Broadway Crossing Apartments
Andrew Niece, SIFF/Egyptian
Ana Klisara, Starbucks
Joshua Wallace, Seattle Area Support Groups
Curtis Walton, Central Seattle Greenways

Interview with Resident Services Coordinator Brittany Williams

Brittany Williams, Resident Services Coordinator

Brittany Williams loves creating spaces of possibility. In her time so far at Resident Services, she’s worked to build community within CHH that includes residents by connecting one-on-one and by being an integral part of that community herself.

Brittany’s position is unique. While other Resident Services Coordinators are assigned to specific buildings, she is charged with developing a holistic program that will serve the residents of many buildings at once. To do this, she is working hard to assess needs, to build relationships with local service providers, and to create systems to prevent and handle crises.

Of all her accomplishments, she is most proud of partnering with the YMCA to host Money Mechanics, a four-week financial literacy program that received overwhelming positive feedback from its 44 participating residents. Upon completion, participants received six months of financial coaching and a savings benefit of up to $1,000. She looks forward to hosting other workshops like these for adults and children.

For Brittany, success means that residents experience a strong sense of belonging within the CHH community. She believes that this is best accomplished by empowering people to advocate for themselves by creating as many choices as possible. Now that her department has grown from three to six staff members, she looks forward to many more programs that make a difference in the lives of CHH residents.

CHH Welcomes New Board Chair

We talked with Robert Schwartz, the new Chair of the Board of Directors for Capitol Hill Housing. Robert was an inaugural member of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Steering Committee and is deeply invested in addressing the need for affordable housing across the region. As Associate Vice President for Facilities at Seattle University, he is responsible for a broad portfolio that includes long-range planning and real estate projects for the campus. He has a passion for sustainability that extends beyond buildings and includes the communities that form around them. [Ed. Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]

You have spent your career engaged in improving the built world. What first drew your attention to affordable housing?

I started working at Seattle University and felt nudges, in part because of my faith, that it was important to be helping low-income people and to be engaged with the city beyond just my work. I knew that I could go serve at a soup kitchen, and I’ve done that in the past, but I thought that’s probably not the best use of my experience and expertise. Because of my role at Seattle University, I was originally put forward to the CHH Board as a mayoral appointee. I thought this is a great opportunity to respond to those nudges and be engaged with helping my community, be engaged with making the city a better place. It was a confluence of a lot of different streams.

You were a part of the original Steering Committee for the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict – what brought you there?

Here at Seattle University, we are really concerned with sustainability.  As a licensed civil engineer, I bring a very analytical and critical approach to sustainability. There’s a lot of happy talk, but I really look at performance. At Seattle University we talk about high performance:  We want a high-performance organization and we want high performance buildings – buildings that perform well are energy efficient and less expensive to operate. To me, we need to take a very practical, hard-edged look at what it means to be sustainable. From that standpoint, I was interested in being engaged not in these big nebulous concepts but in something really concrete. It’s got to result in real changes. And I think the EcoDistrict has done a really good job with that. I look at their solar power initiative and parking; I think the EcoDistrict is a good blend of idealism and real-world applications. That’s to be commended. A lot of that happened after I was involved, but I was there at the initial thinking through of some of those things.

In many ways, Seattle University is trying to model a lot of the same objectives. In Higher Ed, there’s an organization called the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). They have a rating program called Stars – Sustainability Tracking and Rating System. It’s very comprehensive; it doesn’t just look at your recycling. It also looks at your educational offerings, your administrative policies, and how all of those promote sustainable operations. We are one of the few institutions who have a gold rating nationally.

What is your vision for how CHH should look to the future in building partnerships and connecting to communities where there isn’t already an affordable housing nonprofit? How do you think we can best accomplish that?

I think that’s been a big question for us at the Board level. There isn’t a one-size approach that fits all. We are working to figure out parameters for what approach we should use in various locations and what’s appropriate, all with an eye towards meeting the real need of affordable housing and building vibrant and engaged communities. I appreciate the commitment that CHH has to diversity. Chris Persons has done a great job of bringing together a diverse board that reflects the views and needs of the communities we are working in. We still have more work to do. Capitol Hill Housing is an organization that’s willing to take risks. Look at our work in the Central District. We are currently developing a project that, in fifteen years, we may essentially sell all our interests in. That’s a pretty groundbreaking model in a lot of ways, and I’m proud to be a part of an organization that’s willing to take risks. If a group like Capitol Hill Housing doesn’t take that risk, nobody will.

Meeting Change Notice

June 21, 2018

Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) has changed the date of the Property Development Committee meeting originally scheduled to be held in the Belmont Conference Room at the CHH Main Office at 1620 12th Ave, Suite 205, Seattle, WA 98122 on Tuesday, July 3rd at 5:30pm.

This meeting is now scheduled for Wednesday, July 11th at 5:30pm in the same location.

Thank you,

Capitol Hill Housing

CHH’s Newest Addition: Jessica Westgren at Bayview Tower

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Jessica Westgren joined Capitol Hill Housing as a Site Manager for Bayview Tower in June.

Jessica is pleased to join CHH as our newest site manager at Bayview Tower, and we are so glad she is here. Newly taken under management by CHH, Bayview Tower is a 100-unit building serving seniors and people with disabilities. After spending five years of managing large-scale market rate and luxury apartment buildings and witnessing Seattle’s housing crisis firsthand, Jessica is eager to focus on helping affordable housing residents to feel secure in their homes and connected to our community.

For years, Jessica felt a strong cognitive dissonance between the pressures associated with managing buildings where rents have soared and the need she observed in her residents and the neighborhoods where she lives and works. She turned those concerns into action when, nearly three years ago, she co-founded Welcoming Wallingford, a neighborhood-led effort to enact a vision for Wallingford that is inclusive, sustainable, and progressive. Welcoming Wallingford promotes constructive dialogue and civic engagement around housing affordability in the neighborhood. Its success has spurred the creation of Welcoming Eastlake, a similar venture.

Jessica’s tireless efforts don’t stop there. She was just reappointed to the Seattle Renters’ Commission where she serves in two working groups. She says that she will continue her advocacy “until representation mirrors community make-up”.

At CHH, she is excited to learn more about regulations and to use her extensive experience in talking through those complexities with residents. We are thrilled to have this renters’ champion in our corner and look forward to working with and learning from her.

 

 

 

Learning A New Way to Engage Community

CHH Staff & Partners Learn the Pomegranate Method
On May 1st and 2nd, Capitol Hill Housing hosted a training on community engagement conducted by the Pomegranate Center for 34 staff members from CHH and five of our partners: Africatown Community Land TrustByrd Barr PlaceSouthwest Youth & Family Services, and the White Center Community Development Association (CDA).
Together, we studied the Pomegranate Method, which prioritizes the needs and ideas of community members in making collaborative decisions for their neighborhoods. This process emphasizes “placemaking” – connecting people and empowering them to define shared spaces.
For CHH, an inclusive and equitable community-driven process is a top priority. We are committed to deepening our understanding of effective strategies and working with our partners toward this mutual goal.
“I enjoyed spending time with my co-workers and community partners, learning strategies and approaches that are focused on elevating community voice. My hope is that we use the Pomegranate training to coalesce our vision…in order to have a healthy, happy, and affordable White Center community,” said Aaron Garcia, a Community Engagement Manager with the White Center CDA and a participant of the training.
We are immensely grateful to JPMorgan Chase & Co. for providing funding for this opportunity and to Katya and Milenko Matanovic from the Pomegranate Center for imparting their wisdom.

Resident Spotlight: Adrian

It would be difficult to recognize Adrian had you met her just one short year ago. She had no permanent place to live, had recently pled guilty to a felony drug charge, and felt like she was running out of options.

In the fall of 2016, Adrian was arrested for drug possession. As an unhoused resident of downtown Seattle, she was on the radar of LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), an innovative pilot program developed to address low-level crimes in the Belltown neighborhood. With the support of the LEAD program, Adrian was able to participate in DOSA (Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative), in which she pled guilty to the crime and was required to complete a 6-month treatment program in lieu of prison.

To truly get her life back on track, Adrian needed a safe place to live. With the help of her case manager, Devin Majkut, she applied to at least 10 different property management companies or landlords, but was denied every time. Even with a voucher guaranteed to cover the cost of her rent, many agencies were either unwilling or legally unable to provide housing to someone with a criminal record.

“It felt so unfair,” Adrian recalls. “The government gives you a voucher to help you get back on your feet, but that same government has policies that make it almost impossible to use it.”

Devin reflects on how disheartening the process was, “All you’re trying to do is get more stable and it’s hard to be met with closed door after closed door after closed door. We’re both fighters, I’m confident we would have found a place eventually, but I don’t know when, and I don’t know how safe it would have been.”

Luckily, Devin and Adrian were given a break. Through a personal connection, Devin learned of Capitol Hill Housing’s Individual Assessment program. The program is designed for people like Adrian who may have a criminal record or poor rental history and need an opportunity to tell their story instead of being automatically denied housing.

“It gave me an opportunity to explain the circumstances around my arrest, about my history,” says Adrian. “When the applications are being looked at without a face or a name and you’re just looking at a piece of paper – you don’t know the whole story – you don’t know who that person is.”

Capitol Hill Housing took a second look at Adrian’s application, along with her personal statement, letters of support, and additional background information. With support from LEAD, her application was approved, and Adrian moved into her apartment a short time later.

Devin believes that if it wasn’t for CHH, it would have been a long time before a landlord was found who would have been willing to work with Adrian. The nuances of her case and the program can be difficult to understand and with such a recent conviction, Devin feared it would be difficult to convince people that Adrian was truly ready for independent housing.

Adrian’s success, in addition to another individual housed through a similar process, have led CHH and REACH (the parent program of LEAD) to create a partnership where CHH continues to help remove barriers to housing for the population LEAD serves, while LEAD continues to provide case management to their clients. “It’s really exciting to work with an organization with whom we share so many common goals,” says Ashley Thomas, CHH Resident Services Manager. “Together we can provide safe, affordable housing to vulnerable populations, while also meeting an individual’s need for supportive services.”

And for Adrian, it was just the hand up she needed. She’s looking forward to starting school this fall, where she will study Social and Human Services. “I want to be offer support to people going through difficult times – support that wasn’t available to me when I was young.”

Now, Adrian is able to focus on getting back into the community, reconnecting with family, and even just having a normal social life again. “If you’re not having to worry about where you’re going to sleep or how you’re going to survive, it opens the door to so many more possibilities,” reflects Devin. Adrian adds, “Yeah, like what are you going to make for dinner? How are you going to decorate your apartment? How are you going to manage your finances? I never thought about any of that before – I was just focused on survival.”

But now she’s focused on her health, her happiness, and her family. “I’ve reconnected with my grandmother,” Adrian says. “I know she’s going to leave this earth someday, and I’m so happy to now be in a place where I can say, ‘Grandma, I’m okay.’”