The idea of document recording fees supporting homeless services may not mean much to Paul, a single father of four – but the fact that he and his kids found safe housing before one of the coldest Spokane months on record means the world. In Washington State, fees on some real estate documents provide funding for affordable housing and other homeless emergency and transitional housing programs. The homeless document recording fees are the state’s most significant funding source for homelessness programs, representing almost half of all the funds the state has available to help transition people off the streets into shelters and homes.
Paul and his family began the journey of homelessness several years ago when his wife was dealing with challenges related to substance abuse. When she left, it created problems on many levels, including the household budget. Her Social Security check had been the family’s primary source of income.
Paul had a background in construction but work was sporadic. After his wife left, the financial state of the family deteriorated to the point where they had to give up their home. When they were referred to SNAP through the local school that Paul’s kids attended, the family was staying in a camper hooked to Paul’s truck in a Walmart parking lot.
Kelsey Black, a SNAP Homeless Services specialist, communicated with Paul through a counselor at his kids’ school since he was without a working phone. When an appointment with SNAP took place, Paul would come to the school.
“The school counselor and other teachers from the school were getting together to help identify additional options for Paul and his kids,” Kelsey said. “The staff wanted to do as much as they could to help them get housed.”
Last October, Paul completed the homeless intake process through SNAP. Kelsey began a housing search with the understanding that Paul’s history of evictions and other circumstances would likely present some hurdles. She had him assessed to be eligible for family shelters in the area as well as Family Promise, a Spokane-based program that collaborates with local churches to provide short-term housing.
Kelsey worked with school staff to identify a representative from a community church named Tyler who was willing to work with Paul as an additional advocate, assisting in housing searches and filling out rental applications.
By early December, the quest for housing had still not returned good news for Paul and his family. With the weather turning cold, SNAP was able to utilize grant funding to move them from their camper to a hotel. At one point, Kelsey passed along resources for warming centers.
“I was just hoping we would catch a break,” Kelsey recalls.
Around the middle of December, Tyler learned that his mother-in-law had a rental in the Spokane Valley area that had just been vacated. In speaking to Kelsey, she said the property needed some work after the previous renters but would be available. Kelsey mentioned that Paul had experience in construction and could help with the repairs. A deal was soon struck.
“The best part was that she thought that they could move in before Christmas,” Kelsey said.
In the meantime, Kelsey nominated Paul’s family for a Christmas giveaway being sponsored by a local company. News of the $500 gift came right around the time Paul and his kids moved into their new home, just three days before Christmas. With beds and furniture provided by Tyler’s church, Paul spent the $500 on household goods like dishes and other supplies.
The move into a warm, reliable home came at a fortuitous time. The average temperature in the Spokane area throughout January checked in at 19 degrees.
Kelsey has made several home visits since the transition, reporting that Paul and his family have made it a point to keep their home extremely tidy.
“The house itself is immaculate,” she said. “Paul takes great pride in his new place and everything is spotless and in its place. All of the necessary repairs were made and they’ve even begun to decorate.”
Tyler has a good employment lead for Paul through a friend who is a local contractor. Paul has also seen a significant improvement by his kids at school, noting that they have not missed a single day since the move.
“It is absolutely incredible the turnaround that this family has made,” Kelsey said. “They have a fresh opportunity to create a happy and healthy life for themselves. I couldn’t be happier.”
SNAP CEO Julie Honekamp says Paul’s case is just one example of how support through document recording fees is making an impact in reducing Spokane-area homelessness.
“Here you have a family whose entire situation changed because of the help they received,” she said. “It was a game-changer, a life-changer for them. We have seen, again and again, how this funding is critical to getting our very vulnerable clients into stable housing.”