Ever since an apartment fire first left her homeless nearly three years ago, life has been challenging for Real Change vendor Lisa Sawyer.
She most recently became homeless again in March. Now, she’s doubled up with a friend, looking for a place to call her own.
Officially, she’s not homeless. But to her and many others in the same situation, it sure doesn’t feel that way.
At any time, she could be back on the street.
Lisa and her partner earn enough income to pay up to $1,000 a month in rent. But without assistance, the move-in costs of first and last month’s rent make that nearly impossible.
In September, when Lisa was named a Real Change Vendor of the Year, our friends at the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and Downtown Emergency Service Center stepped forward to help.
Lisa received a voucher for first and last month’s rent and security deposit.
The program is called Rapid Rehousing, and it’s designed for people like her: those who earn enough income to make it on their own but remain trapped in homelessness because the move-in costs are too high.
What’s happened since shows how hard it can be, even when a whole community has your back, for homeless people in Seattle to get back on their feet.
While Lisa has made numerous inquiries every week for the past two months, most of the time she doesn’t get a response. In fact, she has yet to be shown her first apartment.
Meanwhile, her customers keep her going.
“Real Change isn’t like anything else I’ve ever done,” Lisa said. “I get a lot of appreciation for the work I’ve been doing.”
That work goes beyond just selling the paper. Lisa is one of our leading vendor advocates, and she gets her share of visibility in standing up for what she believes.
“It makes me feel good. People tell me they see me on the Seattle Channel, testifying in front of City Council.
“I love being an advocate. Everything we do is to help people in need. I love meeting new people. I love meeting legislators and helping get good laws passed. And I love getting noticed by people who have power in Olympia.”
Lisa said she was thrilled to recently meet her state representative, Bob Hasegawa.
“He said, ‘Awesome job, keep it up,’ and I felt like, ‘Oh, my God!’”
Our readers want to help people like Lisa succeed. But the fact is, even with so much going for her, it’s tough for her to find a place of her own.
In this region’s tight housing market, apartments that rent for less than $1,000 a month are hard to come by. Her housing voucher helps solve the money problem, while it offers another in its place. “People assume that if you’re homeless, you’re a drug addict or something. I’m sick of it,” Lisa said.
“I want people to know that there’s a lot of good people like me out there who need housing. People who are hard-working and respectful and just need to catch a break.”
I think most people would be amazed to know how hard it can be to get off the street.
Lisa has more advantages than most: a supportive community. Work she believes in. A housing voucher to help with move-in expenses. And yet, she still needs that lucky break. Someone who will look at her and see a contributing member of the community, not just another “homeless” person who “isn’t worth the risk.”
Maybe someone who sees this will be able to help.
Everyday, hundreds of people like Lisa find opportunity and community through Real Change. Our supporters give them hope and a bridge to something better.
Your support of our Holiday Fund Drive makes our work possible. Please visit the main.realchangenews.org to make your tax-deductible gift today or mail your support to Real Change, 219 First Ave. S., Ste. 220, Seattle, WA, 98104. Thank you.