Part of the SNAP Family
When Tracy moved to Spokane with her two children in 2000, everything seemed stacked against the family. Not able to find housing, she, her children and then-husband moved into a small trailer in Springdale with Tracy’s brother. Unable to work because of an illness and badly in need of assistance to pay for a vital surgery, Tracy turned to Stevens County for help with medical costs but also knew that she needed to find a home quickly.
Having applied for help from community service agencies in the past, Tracy “expected a certain type of attitude.” When Tracy’s Stevens County case worker referred her to SNAP’s Family Development Manager, Bob Peeler, for help with housing, she was skeptical. Bob connected Tracy with housing vouchers for a hotel, helped her apply for Section 8 and signed her up for financial management classes. The help did not stop there. Through SNAP, Tracy also received energy assistance, food and vouchers for gas. When she finally moved into a permanent home, she and her family found a TV on their doorstep left by a SNAP employee. Through her perseverance and consistency in follow-up, Tracy eventually began to feel like SNAP was more like a family than a community service agency.
“With SNAP, you really get the feeling that they’re there to help if you need it,” Tracy says.
In 2004, Bob guided Tracy through the process of applying for college. Tracy graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2009 with a degree in Business and Human Resources and immediately found a job with PAML.
Gainfully employed and no longer in crisis, Tracy is still a big part of the SNAP family. In 2007 she organized a dress-down day fundraiser at PAML, which raised over $700 for SNAP.
From Homeless to Hopeful
In August 2011, Eric and Heather were living in Heather's mother's garage, while their 3-month-old daughter Acacia was living in foster care until they could find a suitable home. Their CPS caseworker referred the couple to SNAP, where they met Family Development Specialist Heather Schleigh, who helped assess their situation and connect the couple with resources.
Within a month, Heather and Eric were able to move into a duplex in Spokane's East Central neighborhood. Shortly after, they were reunited with Acacia. The program that allowed the Robson's to make the move was the Rapid Rehousing Program, a program administered through Volunteers of America that focuses on finding families immediate housing following a crisis.
"After Eric was laid off from the Broadmoor Apartments, where we also lived, we stayed with friends and then my mother ... We were running out of options. We're very happy to be in a stable place with a six-month lease," said Heather.
The couple also qualified for Energy Assistance through SNAP, which created a credit on their heat bill. That cushion helped this young family cover their new lease payment.
"We're both culinary students at SCC on a tight budget," Eric explained. "SNAP has really provided us with the help we need to accomplish our goals."
Bob Gandini has owned Sunset Florist and Greenhouse, at the top of Sunset Hill, since 1956.
Even a solid business like Sunset sometimes needs a bit of extra support. In March of 2011, Bob approached SNAP for a small business loan to provide start-up supplies for his next season of sales and to help pay for the labor required to run his shop.
He found that applying for a SNAP loan was much less complicated than applying for a bank loan.
"The bank I initially tried to get the loan through required a monumental amount of paperwork and offered little assistance," Bob said. "SNAP was much more tuned-in to what I was trying to do and helped me through the process."
Bob just paid off his $25,000 SNAP development loan, a year after receiving it, and business is holding steady.
Sunset Florist and Greenhouse creates and delivers flower and edible arrangements for all occasions. For more information, visit their website or Facebook page.
Meet a SNAP employee:
Title: Energy Certification Worker
Time with SNAP: 8 years
What I do at SNAP:
I certify Energy Assistance Program files and bill them to Accounting. I work with vendors and am also the Chair of the Staff Council.
I enjoy knowing that I have made an impact. I have clients who call years after receiving assistance to let me know that they are doing OK. Some are still struggling but they know that there is someone there to hear their voice.
Not Your Grandparent's Swing Festival
Spring in Spokane means showcasing what the city has to offer, from the Lilac Festival to Musicfest Northwest. This year, a new festival made its debut.
The Spokane Lindy Exchange was a three-day dance festival and one of many swing festivals across the country. It took place April 20-22 and gathered visiting and local dancers to experience the music and styles of the region.
Colleen came to Spokane by way of San Francisco, where she had spent years teaching the Charleston and Lindy Hop. She noticed Spokane had great bands and a small-but-dedicated dance community, but it offered only one variety of swing, the East Coast Swing. Colleen hopes to change that. She has been teaching dance lessons and performing the Charleston and Lindy Hop locally for years.
"I've attended Lindy Exchanges all over the country," she said. "I thought, why not here? There's definitely the energy and talent."
Colleen is experienced in teaching and performing, but when the idea occurred to take initiative and start a cultural movement in Spokane, she realized she needed help. She turned to SNAP and was connected with Financial Access's Greg Franson, who coached her on the ins-and-outs of finance and promotion.
"There are many people within SNAP who have helped me to support my goals," she said. "I feel that it is important to take responsibility for my own movement forward. SNAP helped me do that."
As a single mother and a violinist, Charlotte Bickford had limited income. She taught violin lessons and supplemented her small paycheck by playing at weddings and events around town.
Her home was very cold in the winter months. She often could "see her breath" during the real cold days. High heating bills kept her from turning up the thermostat.
She qualified for SNAP's weatherization program in June 2009, but had to wait until her name reached the top of the waiting list. This often takes some time.
In September 2009, her roof was destroyed by a violent wind storm. Homeowner's insurance covered the roof repairs, but the insurance company cancelled her insurance once the claim was paid saying the house had no siding.
SNAP's weatherization team arrived in June 2010 and went to work. Charlotte immediately noticed the difference.
"They insulated my floor, sealed up the openings in the walls and doors," Charlotte said proudly. "But, the big difference was the new central heating system. It was efficient and warmed my house like never before."
But SNAP wasn't finished with Charlotte Bickford's home. She also qualified for the minor home repair program. She didn't consider the repairs "minor" at all.
"They replaced the rest of my windows, installed carpet and cleared up the electrical box which had been a maze of wires," Charlotte said. "Then, siding was put on the house and a proper gas line was installed."
Charlotte was relieved. She said, "I finally felt safe and warm in my home for the first time in my life."
Charlotte dedicated a violin concert on June 26 to SNAP and partners such as Elk's Peaceful Valley Church, her way of thanking her community for the support. She said all the SNAP staff was very accommodating, friendly and helpful.
"I am so grateful for all the work that has been done. I have a beautiful home."
Wojo Works is a specialty retail store that specializes in modern-style home accessories, small furnishings and unique, quality paper goods. The shop located downtown across from the Davenport Hotel at 824 W. Sprague Avenue, opened in mid-November.
Starting this business has been Chris Wojtowicz's aspiration for many years. Working for architectural firms, Chris developed a passion for mid-century modern design. "I am attracted to mid-century modern because, to me, it represents the meeting of form and function that results in clean lines, honest materials, and a general integrity of design," Chris said. With Wojo Works, he seeks to make this style of design accessible and affordable, right here in Spokane!
Meet a SNAP Employee:
Title: Information Specialist
Time with SNAP: 5 years
What I do at SNAP:
I am a Information Specialist. My specialty is homelessness, but I also work with a variety of other programs. I currently serve as head of the FAQ task force.
The best part of my work is giving people hope when they need it most. With the economy the way it is today, lots of people are desperate for assistance including the basics- shelter and food
Flying Pig Cafe
After becoming unemployed in 2010, Marsha decided she wanted to open her own business and employ her daughter and son-in-law. SNAP assisted her with creating a business plan and financing to make improvements to the space she leased in the International District.
The Flying Pig opened in September 2009. The cafe serves sandwiches, soup, desserts and coffee.
From Safety Net to Security
For Katie, the clock was ticking. She had no job and no secure place to live, but she did have a baby on the way and a full load of college classes to worry about.
The only safety net Katie had--an offer from her sister to pay one more month's rent on the storage shed that held all of Katie's possessions--was unraveling. Along with the last rent check, Katie's sister passed along a suggestion to call SNAP.
In October 2008 Katie and her SNAP caseworker, Mary Westerman, set
goals for Katie's future. Katie took classes in budgeting, worked to improve her credit score and learned about renters' rights.
During this process Katie couch surfed at various friends' homes, but stayed in contact with her doctor's office, her school and her family through a free Community Voicemail box.
Just as time was officially running out--her son, Noah, was due in less than a month--SNAP helped Katie qualify for a safe, clean and secure two-bedroom apartment.
"I had to account for all my spending in a budget I turned in every month to Mary," Katie proudly explains. "I met with her often to show how I was meeting my goals."
Katie took over the lease on her apartment when she graduated from her SNAP program in April 2010. She says her positive outlook on life, and her hope for the future, started the day she met Mary at SNAP.
"I will never be homeless again," Katie says, "because SNAP gave me the tools to be successful for the rest of my life."
A new grocery store and deli in the West Central neighborhood, across from Cannon pool, aims to provide a healthy food shopping option for neighborhood residents. Owner Chuck Redmon, who previously owned the small dairy mart up the street, was approached by the Spokane Regional Health District because they wanted to bring their Healthy Corner Store initiative to West Central.
Chuck received business counseling and a small business loan from Financial Access, and Parkside Grocery was ready to open. The store employs Chuck and three other staff. Parkside Grocery stocks fresh milk, bread, meat and local produce, and accepts WIC and EBT. The Monkey Business cafe next door serves sandwiches, salads and coffee. Read more about Parkside Grocery in the Spokesman-Review story and on KXLY's website.
Heating Hand Up
Dannie had never needed to ask for help before. But after losing her job, she found herself in a position she never thought she'd be in: struggling to make ends meet, having to choose between buying groceries and paying bills each week.
Dannie's pellet stove stopped working, and her electricity bills began to pile up. In April, a friend told her about SNAP and the heating assistance program. After a short process of speaking with a SNAP caseworker and completing paperwork, Dannie received a grant to put towards her heating bill, giving her some breathing room to catch up on other costs until she could find stable employment.
When this young couple purchased their first home in March 2005 both were working and the future looked promising. Jacob was a full-time customer service agent with a major bank and Sherri was employed as a caregiver. The jobs were stable, their income was good, and they were in their first home, with their first child.
Things began to change drastically at the end of 2008. Jacob's job was lost and his income reduced to unemployment compensation. At the same time, Sherri was in a high-risk pregnancy and was forced to leave her job or risk losing the baby. Household income was slashed in half and they began to struggle financially. Jacob, desperate for work, started mowing lawns as a way to provide for his young family. Mortgage, household, and medical bills piled up. Things were looking grim. It was at that time that they reached out to SNAP and the housing counseling department.
Having been given a notice of foreclosure sale, the housing counseling department made them a top priority and quickly brought the young couple in. In early January 2011, with the foreclosure sale scheduled two weeks into the future, the housing counselor immediately contacted the lender, explained the situation and circumstances, got the sale postponed, and began the long process of default counseling. After many meetings with the borrower, phone calls to the bank, and extensive paperwork, the lender agreed to modify the loan. The couple first had to successfully complete a trial payment period and in June 2011 their loan was permanently modified to include the arrearage and set the interest rate at 4.5%, reducing their payment--now including taxes and insurance--to $682.69; allowing the family four to stay in their home.
The family's new baby was born without major complications. Jacob has secured new, permanent work, and he continues to run his lawn maintenance business for added income. They are in a much better position and things have stabilized for the family. Without the housing counselor's intervention to stop the foreclosure and guide them through the modification process, there would likely have been a very different outcome.
Many of us start out seeking careers to help others, never imagining that one day we might be the ones who need a hand. Angelica (Angie) Morales is college-educated and made her living as a certified nursing assistant.
Though Angie and her husband, a landscaper, had always worked, a combination of the weak economy and poor health in the family eventually led to the loss of their home. In July of 2011, Angie, her husband and their three young children moved into a tent in a relative's backyard. Shortly after, her youngest daughter, Aileya, became sick with pneumonia. Angie, also suffering from extensive medical issues, had to quit her job.
Angie turned to SNAP in late July and met with Homeless Services Counselor Chantel Decker. Together, they were able to follow-through with a housing opportunity which brought stable housing to the family on September 29, 2011.
"Housing has made a huge difference; the kids can go to school, we have a place where we can cook meals, take showers and go to sleep in a warm bed," Angie says.
Serving Those Who Have Served
For years after Vicki's service as an army medic, she was able to keep up with the cost of housing though being disabled and unable to work. As time went on, the cost of housing rose so high that Vicki was unable to afford a lease on her disability compensation, which left her homeless for eight years.
In 2010, Vicki’s respite finally came when a friend referred her to SNAP. Just two weeks later, Vicki was able to move into an affordable apartment in Resident Court, one of eleven SNAP-owned complexes. She has been living in her studio for two years now and is very satisfied with her place.
“I really love my housing and am grateful for the care that is taken in making improvements.”
Building Bright Futures
Lisa is a substitute teacher in Spokane's elementary schools. Four years ago, she was a student at Whitworth working on her master's in teaching when she fell and sustained a triple fracture in her leg.
Recovering from the injury was a slow process. In pain and unable to walk while she healed, Lisa could not attend school or go to work. Without financial aid, there was no way to pay for the apartment she shared with her two young children.
"I was completely humiliated and out of options," Lisa says.
She turned to SNAP for help. "My intake worker, Bob, was very encouraging. We sat down and made a plan," Lisa said.
SNAP was able to secure hotel vouchers for Lisa so she could stay in a family temporary shelter. During her recovery, Lisa attended financial management classes through a responsible renters program. A few months later, a spot in a SNAP-owned apartment complex opened up and the family was able to move into a place of their own.
Lisa went back to school as soon as she was able and graduated with her master's in teaching in 2010. Now, she's taking classes to work with gifted and talented students.
"I think that the experience has made me a better teacher. Now, I know what resources are out there and can share them with parents and other educators," she said.
Dale Gets the Credit He Deserves
Dale has been a participant in many SNAP Financial Access programs including Small Business Development, Individual Development Accounts (IDA) and, most recently, Credit Builder.
Through the IDA program, Dale worked to expand his business as a tailor. Last year, he came in for an IDA counseling appointment and mentioned his dream of purchasing a home. Dale had tried to secure an FHA home loan but did not meet the credit requirements. His SNAP counselor got him started with the Credit Builder Program. Dale found that his score was not as far off as he originally thought; his middle score was 603.
He and his Financial Access counselor contacted a loan officer to figure out the minimum guidelines for an FHA loan. Dale needed a score of 620 to even be considered. He attended classes and worked hard to bring his mid-score up. By the time he resubmitted his loan application, his mid-score was 628. Dale received underwriting approval and his house closed on July 15, 2011.
Dale, his daughter and his granddaughter have moved into the home and he is enjoying the pride of homeownership.