Posted: June 6, 2017

This week’s HOPE/JOY is a story about one of our families who has struggled with housing. In October, they lost their housing again and since then, they have been staying in various shelters, with friends, or in hotels throughout Vancouver. I sat down with the oldest student in the family and talked to him about his experiences. He’s an amazing young man who inspires me to be better every day. His words are in italics.

What’s it like to not know where you’ll go after school each day and still try to be a student?
It’s stressful you’re trying to concentrate on your classes, but there’s this looming thought that kind of takes over. Are you going to be in a car or at somebody else’s house tonight? It’s hard to think about much else.

The Vancouver Housing Authority provides a handful of vouchers each month to support families with funding to find and keep housing. There are more than 500 Clark County families that qualify with long waiting lists.

What’s it like to be waiting on the lottery for a voucher, hoping for help?
We’ve been in this lottery for like four years waiting, and this time it was like a miracle getting it.

Our family won the lottery back in early March and qualified for a voucher. That started the long process of trying to find a place to rent. In a tight housing market, with the challenge of trying to come back from losing housing this was not easy. (Have you ever visited the Vancouver Housing Authority website? If you haven’t try navigating it like you needed a voucher.)

Who do you go to for help while trying to navigate the system?
I went to the school staff and friends to see who could help and others that work at the Vancouver Housing Authority or SHARE. We’ve never gotten this type of help before so it was refreshing that people want to help people.

Our family asked for help through teachers, counselors and administration. One of our staff received this email: Hello, it’s me NAME, I hope you remember me. I was hoping you could help me and my family. Our time at our shelter recently ended, and we are trying to find a place to stay, but we are having trouble affording motels/hotels. If you know of any way to help us, we would be eternally grateful.

That email prompted a wrap-around meeting that included staff from three schools and representatives from our faith-based community to help find housing, provide temporary housing, and food.

What does it feel like to get a home?
It’s amazing I don’t know what else to say. It doesn’t feel real yet. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

What are your dreams?
I want to get accepted into college and study psychology. I like talking to people and helping them with their problems. It helps me too. I like helping other people.

What would you like staff to know about the challenges you and your siblings face and how we can better support you?
It was really helpful when my teachers were understanding with some of the stuff we were going through. Even if students are in this situation, know that students are trying, they want to pass classes. Just try to be there for them.

We’re all very busy trying to serve our students. It’s important to be able to slow down and make sure we’re really seeing and understanding our students. For this family that happened. Thank you to everyone who helped make a difference. There are a lot of you!

Here’s to the work you do each week in helping students find JOY and HOPE!