Community Action of Skagit County helps families overcome homelessness, gain financial security and secure permanent housing
Main image: Community Action of Skagit County’s family shelter is one of many housing options offered to families in need.
Regence believes that every partnership we cultivate, every dollar we pledge and every hour we volunteer makes the communities in which we live, work and play healthier. This post is part of a blog series that highlights how Regence is collaborating with community partners to positively impact the quality of life of people and families in our communities.
Brandy, Michael and their two children became homeless when toxic mold in their apartment forced them to move out. Without funds for first and last month’s rent and a deposit on a new place to call home, the couple had no other option but to live out of their car and in hotels. “We’d been in the same place for five years and all of a sudden we had to move out, our car was totaled, and I was laid off,” says Michael. “There was a snowball effect, and living in hotels drained our resources insanely fast.”
But not long after, they were able to secure a temporary apartment at the Family Development Center, a shelter in Mount Vernon, Wash., that assists families in the transition from homelessness to permanent housing. Families in need can stay rent-free for up to three months. The shelter is owned and operated by Community Action of Skagit County, a nonprofit organization committed to moving local families and communities from poverty to prosperity.
While families are staying in the shelter, Community Action works with multiple agencies and resources, such as Child Protective Services, Behavioral Health Services, school counselors and the justice system, to help families get back on their feet and into permanent housing as quickly as possible.
During their stay at the Family Development Center, Brandy and Michael worked with one of Community Action’s family development specialists, who helped them identify barriers that were preventing them from attaining stable housing, and connected them to resources that could help them overcome those barriers. “Community Action helped us with funding to get into a new apartment and helped pay for my electrician training so I could get my license, get back to work and gain stability for our family,” says Michael. Brandy adds: “That initial help really got us over the hump and back to a place of security where we could make it on our own again.”
Each year, Community Action helps nearly 30,000 individuals and families, like Brandy and Michael, find tools and support to get out of poverty, such as assistance with food, rent and utility costs, job training, financial counseling and more. “As the gap widens between housing expenses and local wages, the need to help individuals and families avoid homelessness and food insecurity continues to grow along with it,” says Liz Jennings, Community Action’s community engagement director.
Since 2015, Regence has supported Community Action and its efforts to address the social determinants of health, promote food access and housing stability, and build a thriving and connected community. Through a combination of community investment funds – a commitment of $115,000 over the last four years – employee donations and volunteerism, Regence works alongside Community Action to address homelessness and food insecurity head on by supporting programs, like the Family Development Center, that provide people in crisis with the resources necessary to become self-sufficient and successful.
Job training for a more stable future
When Family Development Center employees heard that Michael was an experienced electrician but lacked a certification, they referred him to Community Action’s Basic Food Employment and Training Program (BFET), which assists families with basic food needs, helps pay for trainings and certifications, and supports job search readiness, education and training programs. Michael was able to get his electrical trainee card just a month after starting the program.
From there, Michael quickly landed interviews with two companies with the support of the BFET program and went to work full time with a company where he earns $24 an hour. Once Michael secured this new job, he and Brandy could finally start searching for permanent housing.
Securing housing in a tight market
To help Brandy and Michael find housing in an expensive market, the Family Development Center worked with BFET and secured flexible housing dollars from the county to cover Michael and Brandy’s first and last month’s rent and a deposit—the major barrier preventing them from securing permanent housing in the first place. The family is now settled and Michael continues to work as an electrical trainee. “I don’t know where we would be if we hadn’t gotten the support we needed,” says Brandy.
“Being homeless is something I never thought would happen,” adds Michael. “We were put to the test, but Community Action was instrumental in helping us get back on our feet.”