“These small kindnesses…”

We at FamilyWorks are fortunate to support local families and individuals seeking nourishment and connection, and to partner with these families and individuals as they step into greater resiliency.

Recently a family shared with us how FamilyWorks partnered with them to help them through a very difficult time. This story illuminates the many, integrated ways FamilyWorks serves our community but it also highlights how “small kindnesses” can pave the path towards bigger things.  

Admittedly this story is a little long, but it’s worth reading all the way through for the happy ending.

*All names have been changed to protect anonymity

When we first came to this area, we were living in an apartment in Shoreline. Mike (my husband) worked, driving a pedicab. I (Jennifer) work as a home health aide. We switch off working so we can care for our son.

Like a lot of people, we were doing ok, making the rent, paying bills, etc…until we weren’t. It didn’t take much–someone got sick, missed a week of work, didn’t get paid as much. First, we couldn’t afford our electric bill and the lights were shut off. Then, we couldn’t afford our rent. Before we knew it, we were staying in a motel on Aurora. At the time, Caleb was 3 years old. We were able to afford the weekly cost of the motel room (about 300 dollars) but not much else. One day, while walking down 45th street, we saw the signs for FamilyWorks. It said “free playgroups”. We were greeted by friendly faces and a happy toy-filled room for our son to play and meet other kids. It was so great to have a place where we could bring him to sing songs, play, make friends, and have a snack. Sometimes that snack was the only food he ate between breakfast and dinner. It was also great to talk to the other parents. The staff helped us understand some of Caleb’s behaviors and come up with positive strategies to address them.

We learned that Family works also has a food bank. This turned out to be a huge help to our family. In the motel, we didn’t have a kitchen where we could prepare meals. It cost us so much money to buy pre-made food. At FamilyWorks, we got “no-cook bags” that were filled with food we could make easily in the kitchenette or eat on the go. The kind people who worked in the food bank would often give Caleb an extra piece of fruit and some juice when we went through the line. These small kindnesses meant so much to my family.

There were other ways that FamilyWorks helped us–we got diapers, wipes, clothes, toys…when we moved into the motel, we didn’t have any toys for Caleb, but we ended up with 2 boxes, all from FamilyWorks! We got bus passes which were the only way I could get to work. At this point, we’d sold our car to make the rent.

Right around Thanksgiving last year, things got a lot harder. We were late on payment to the motel and the owner kicked us out. We had nowhere to sleep and the weather had turned cold and rainy. We spent our nights riding the bus, trying to stay warm and keep Caleb out of the cold. A few nights, we had to sleep in an abandoned house with no phone and no food. We taught Caleb to stay quiet by pretending we were secret ninjas.

We came into FamilyWorks and met with the family advocate. Unfortunately, housing is not easy to come by in this city. We called several agencies and put our names on wait lists for shelters and transitional programs, including the family housing connection. At one point, the agency paid for 3 nights in a hotel for us, just so we wouldn’t be on the streets over Thanksgiving. We also got a hot meal at Nickerson St. Pub on Thanksgiving Day. Then I got paid again and we were able to pay for another week at the motel. We continued to meet with the advocate almost every day. We wanted to rent an apartment, but we couldn’t save enough for first, last, and a deposit. Finally, after about 1000 phone calls, we got connected to an agency that helped us with move-in costs. We just had to find a place that would work with us. We went all over, looking for a place we could afford and finally, finally found a place in Mountlake Terrace. It was January 9th, just a few days before Caleb’s birthday. He had his own room with a bed and a place for his toys. We were sleeping on the floor, but we didn’t care! We finally had a home.

The staff at FamilyWorks continued to work with us after we moved in. They helped us find a futon on a Buy Nothing group and even convinced the person to deliver it to our house for free! And the family advocate helped us sign our son up for Head-start where he started earlier this month.

Now, we are doing well. I am working weekends doing the same job. Mike is working at a landscaping company. Caleb is thriving in his stable environment. We are so grateful for the help we got at FamilyWorks.