On Monday, Feb. 10, the Seattle City Council will take up Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s ordinance to limit winter evictions. This is a sensible, life-saving measure, first proposed in November by the Seattle Renters Commission.
Passing this ordinance is the right thing to do. I know from bitter experience that evictions devastate families and cost lives.
A little over five years ago, my four-year-old daughter and I moved in with my mom, who had a stroke and couldn't live alone. We got put on her Section 8 voucher and I filled out the application for the apartment complex. She had always paid the rent on time. I gave the private landlord a written statement from my mom’s doctors saying she couldn't live alone. The landlord wouldn't approve my application because I still owed half a month’s rent from the place I had recently moved from.
The landlord told us to leave by the end of the month. Then my father passed away. Needless to say, we didn't move out by the end of the month. I started looking for places but didn’t have any luck. I talked to the landlord, but she wouldn't budge.
We were physically evicted by the sheriff right about Halloween. My mom was 72 years old. I couldn't have her sleeping outside in the winter, so I couch-hopped her, from one friend to the next.
My daughter and I slept in my Jeep that whole winter. She was in preschool so that made it a little more difficult. With my daughter in the vehicle with me, I always tried to find safe places to park at night. We parked a lot at Walmart, grocery stores with well-lit parking lots, and in neighborhoods I felt were safe. Every night I would try to get to a store to use the bathroom or we would have to go outside.
I ran out of gas a lot because I would use it up keeping the heat on at night. We got harassed by the police constantly. If they caught us sleeping in the car they'd make me move. One time they wanted me out of the city and followed me to the city line.
Several months later I would eventually lose my vehicle, the only safe and dry place I had to sleep, because the police were so against me sleeping in my car. At one point my daughter got really sick. She had a temperature of 103-104 degrees, and it was below freezing outside at night. For a while, we were able to stay at a friend's house until she got better.
All winter long we went through this, us sleeping in a car and couch-surfing my elderly mom. I couldn't take care of her the way she needed. And during this whole time, I continued to look for a place to rent. We were coming down to the wire – if I didn't find a place quickly we would lose our housing voucher.
I finally found a place a week before we ran out of time. It met the Section 8 criteria but the Section 8 bureaucrats wouldn't approve it because they didn't want to pay the amount the apartment managers were asking for even though it was in our allotted amount. So I lost the housing voucher.
I did some research on the housing market, and that was when I found out there was a less than 1% availability of 3-bedroom rentals in the whole county. And out of that less than 1% how many of them would take my voucher and fall into the price range that it was for? Almost impossible.
I was able to build a case I could present to the Section 8 program. So I started gathering documentation to prove my case.
And then I lost my daughter to Child Protective Services.
Losing her broke me.
Up to that point, I had been battling drug addiction on and off for 3 years. I dove head-first into that addiction. Two months later I was able to get into treatment and get sober.
Meanwhile, my mom was not doing well couch-surfing and had to be placed in a nursing home. She went downhill quickly.
A month after I got out of rehab, my mom passed away. I relapsed. It took me a long time to recover from everything that happened in that year.
I got clean and started staying at a Share shelter and then Nickelsville Northlake tiny house village. Share and Nickelsville people gave me the stability and community support I needed to stay sober and start standing on my feet again.
I celebrated two years sober on the 11th of this month. I see my daughter all the time and can have her full time when I get into permanent housing. Things are better now.
I can’t imagine how different things would have been for me, my daughter, and my mom if we hadn’t been evicted so cruelly. My mom might still be alive. My daughter certainly would still be with me.
I hope that by speaking up, I can help prevent this tragedy from happening to someone else. One family eviction tragedy is one too many. Let’s all turn out at 1:30 pm Monday, Feb. 10 to demand that the full City Council pass Councilmember Sawant’s moratorium on winter evictions!