by Kirby Lindsay
The weather often dictates how many homeless men and women drop by the R.O.A.R. of Washington offices at 3644 Albion Place North, according to Elizabeth Hudson, the Executive Director. From 10a – 2:30p Monday to Thursday, R.O.A.R. staff and volunteers handout “little mercies” – bus tickets, sack lunches, dry socks, clothing (some from World Vision), and/or hygiene products (shampoo, soap, lots of razors, etc).
Besides the ‘mercies,’ they also offer use of computers and a fax machine to those looking for work, or housing – something R.O.A.R. (Referrals Opportunity Advocacy Research) has done for the last twenty years, 15 of those in different locations around Fremont. Today, they enjoy their easily accessible offices, on Albion, and the affordable rent they pay, thanks to Calvin Caley of Pacific Heating Oil.
Full-Time Work = Homelessness
Primarily R.O.A.R. focuses on assisting those seriously in search of a home. They don’t work with the chronically homeless, Hudson explained, but those who have gumption and hope, and need a boost of assistance to breach the gap from house-less to housed.
Janet Newell, Hudson’s Mom, founded R.O.A.R. after volunteering at her church and identifying a need. “Being homeless is a full-time job,” she has often observed. Hudson explained that many programs have restrictions and conditions and the working homeless become ineligible – an income $17 over the limit, interviews or offices open during working hours, or require extensive research to access help.
Hudson provides quick, emergency case management to every caller at R.O.A.R., and then identifies who may help them best. Seattle is in the top 10% for social service agencies, she reported on a study results, but in the bottom 10% for providing social services to single women with children.
At R.O.A.R., they can help pay a deposit, first month’s rent, locate affordable housing, verify income and/or advocate with landlords. “We are trying to fill the gap in services,” she explained.
Help Beyond Home
To gain assistance, R.O.A.R. clients must have an income. Once housed, they can also sign-up their children for the Stay-In-School and Holiday Project. Stay-In-School provides 350+ children with backpacks, school supplies, clothing and shoe vouchers. During the holidays, R.O.A.R. matches givers with one of 500+ children in need, registered in the Seattle School District, who will receive a present.
Clients appreciate the free gifts for their children, and R.O.A.R. appreciates how the programs allow them to track their clients’ progress. As Hudson proudly declares, “79% of the people we assist stay in their housing.”
“We have a relationship with our clients,” Hudson explained, and recently, “this one precious woman came in.” Since the family got into housing, six years ago, they’ve returned for backpacks and holiday gifts. Now the mother came to brag about her twins – the first ones ever, in the entire family, to graduate from high school, and now ready to go to UW, on scholarships they’ve earned.
The Fremont community can help to make more of these incredible stories happen. R.O.A.R. has partnered with the Fremont Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Fremont, among other organizations, in seeking donors. Companies – small and large – can give employee time or materials. Groups and/or co-workers can share a child, or family, as their recipients for a personally packed backpack, or holiday gifts.
Ultimately, though, they can best use financial donations, that make a big difference. “It’s more than just $200 for rent,” Hudson explained about the help donors give to R.O.A.R. clients, “it’s breaking the cycle of homelessness.”
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.