In August of 2015 my teenage son and I lived in the Edmonds Highlands apartments in a wonderful two-bedroom apartment. But on Aug. 10, our world was rocked. The apartment manager decided not to renew our lease, without explanation. We had the 20-day legal time-frame to find a new place, pack up and move. There was one problem though: I have a Section 8 voucher and vouchers have to go through a process to make them “mobile,” and this process does not happen in 20 days…in fact, it took 5 1/2 weeks! This lead to an eight-month-long experience of homelessness.
I live on Social Security disability, which means I didn’t have the financial means to pay for a move and a new place on my own. We had no family or anyone that could take us both in, so we had to split up and stay with separate friends. My cat and I slept on couches and bounced between four different friends’ houses for the eight long months!
During my homelessness, I searched daily for an apartment that would rent to Section 8 voucher holders, but my search came up empty time and time again. There are far more voucher recipients than there are available units for rent. In addition, many landlords just do not rent to voucher holders, which is a form of discrimination, even though they are missing out on guaranteed rent! Vouchers only cover a certain dollar amount, too, and most of the places I found that do accept vouchers had their rent rates above the voucher amounts, making them ineligible to rent.
With rental amounts going sky-high, a lack of affordable housing, too few voucher-accepting landlords and an influx of people moving to the area, it’s no wonder that at any given moment a family experiencing a job loss, an illness, an injury or some other event can find themselves on the verge of homelessness just like I did. This explains 660-plus homeless, school-aged kids in the Edmonds School District and a three- to five-year wait list just to get on Section 8! And sadly, the disabled, veterans (I am one!) and elderly are not exempt from this problem either.
We have to do better than this! I believe housing is a human right, and we need to come together and figure out creative and thoughtful ways to ensure that no one has to sleep in their car, on someone else’s couch, or worse, outside! This is why I have joined the Edmonds Housing Instability Coalition and am excited for our panel discussion meeting on April 24, to be held at the Edmonds Library conference room from 6:30-8 p.m. I think when we work together, we can do great things, and I hope you will join me!