Community Comes to the Aid of Downtown Apartment Tenants
Guest Blogger: Tim Sullivan
Senior Manager, Housing & Homeless Programs at Yakima County Department of Human Services
On July 5, 2013 members of the Homeless Network of Yakima County were notified by the City of Yakima Code Enforcement that the Senator Cascade Apartments would be closed on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 due to significant safety code violations. The closure would affect up to 90 households and 200 individuals.
To provide more time for residents to find alternative housing options, the City of Yakima extended the deadline until noon on July 12, 2013. On Thursday, July 11 the deadline was moved to Thursday July, 18 after significant progress had been made on the safety code violations. The apartment’s closure was permanently lifted late Friday afternoon on July 12 after the building owner was able to complete all required repairs.
The final outcome for the residents was a positive one. Even though they had to endure a week full of stress wondering if their only housing would be taken away from them, they were able to remain in a building that is much safer now. The residents discovered that they have a voice, as witnessed by their efforts to picket City Hall.
Many organizations, agencies, businesses and individuals have come forward to offer assistance to the residents of the Cascade and Senator apartments. Of particular note are the contributions of the Homeless Network of Yakima County, Yakima County Department of Human Services, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Northwest Justice Project, Sunrise Outreach Center, and Yakima’s faith community.
An emergency intake center was setup at the Yakima County N. 1st Street Conference Center on Wednesday, July 9 from noon to 5:00pm to assess the needs and identify resources for the residents. The Center was staffed by Yakima Human Services, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Northwest Justice Project and Sunrise Outreach Center. Seventy-nine households representing 124 individuals came to the center in the heat of the day seeking assistance. The following is a demographic picture of these citizens:
- Of the households that attended, 63% reported receiving SSI or SSDI as their major source of income followed by 20% that were employed.
- Seventy-three percent of the households reported at least one family member with a disability.
- Twenty-four households reported that they had been homeless within the past three years.
- Sixty-three percent reported living in the apartment less than a year, while 25% reported living in the apartments between 2-13 years.
- Almost all of the residents reported that they had no other family or friends that they could turn to for help and only a handful had ever sought any kind of housing assistance prior to Wednesday.
As of Monday, July 15 three households have found new housing through Yakima Neighborhood Health Services Homeless Resource Center while two are pending. Two of the households are frail elderly individuals who will be placed in respite apartments that provide meals and medical assistance. All of those placed expressed gratitude for their new improved housing status and reported if they had a choice they would never go back to the Senator or Cascade Apartments. Other residents moved out or found temporary housing on their own and are still entitled to relocation assistance from the owner.
The outpouring of assistance was overwhelming; up to 30 local churches pledged their support with money for rent, food, storage, moving assistance and volunteers. Three churches agreed to host emergency shelters and the Red Cross offered to provide shelter supplies. Three property management companies and one apartment complex offered what units they had available. One individual, who wished to remain anonymous, donated $5,000 cash to assist tenants who were the most affected by the housing crisis. Now that the crisis has been averted the donation was returned, but the donor left $1,000 to support the efforts that were made to help the residents.
The residents of the Cascade and Senator Apartments include children, elderly, disabled, and veterans. Most live on very limited fixed incomes and simply cannot afford to live anywhere else. One gentleman, a truck driver, who lives in the apartments with his disable wife had called in a panic from Colorado where he was completing a delivery. His wife had called him Tuesday morning after receiving a notice about the pending closure. There was no way for the man to help his wife find a new place to live or to get home by Friday to help his wife move their belongings. The man wanted to park his truck and fly home, but they had no money to buy a plane ticket. Lucky for this couple and the countless other residents with their own stories of hopelessness found hope when their homes were returned to them.
On behalf of the residents of the Cascade and Senator Apartments, the Homeless Network of Yakima County wishes to thank everyone in our community who came forward to offer assistance.