Walk The Walk - September 2019

Last month, SideWalk started a new program for our most vulnerable participants and I became its first staffer. I’m excited to tell you more about it.

You probably remember I served as SideWalk’s Development Co-Director, a position I loved. Working in Development has been one of the highlights of my career. It’s been a blast to put my skills in community organizing and online marketing to use for people experiencing homelessness.

What you may not know about me is that I myself experienced homelessness for several years. As a teenager, family instability forced me out on to the streets. And as an adult, falling into the wrong crowd led me to addiction and a return to homelessness. Fortunately, with the help of people who cared about me, I beat my addiction and escaped the streets.

That’s why our mission is so dear to my heart. I know what our participants have been through because I’ve been there. So when SideWalk started its Peer Supported Rapid Rehousing Program last month, I jumped at the opportunity.

Our volunteers do amazing work at the Community Care Center. Since 2012, SideWalk volunteers have helped nearly 1,500 people escape the streets and leave homelessness behind. The vast majority just need to talk it out with our volunteers, find a place on their own, and then receive short term rental assistance to help them leap that final hurdle.

A very small minority, though, need an extra helping hand. Sometimes they’re battling addiction like I did. Other times, they’re sorting out legal stuff like I did. Most of the time, though, they’ve experienced homelessness for so long that they just lose hope that they’ll find a safe place to call home. 

That’s where I come in. SideWalk’s Peer Supported Rapid Rehousing, funded by the Foundational Community Supports program, gives our participants who need it that extra helping hand. When I open up about my past experiences of homelessness, they open up. Working one on one, together we can spend more time and tackle more challenges. Together, we go out and search for a new home. Once we’ve found it, we go back to our volunteers to get that rental assistance the participant needs to seal the deal and move in.

I took my first participant in late August. Earlier this week, my first participant moved in to a new apartment in Olympia. I’m proud to have helped him, but just like our volunteers I won’t stop until everyone in our community has a safe place to call home.

I look forward to share news with you about our new Peer Supported Rapid Rehousing program in the months to come. Thank you for your support of our mission to end homelessness.

Eric Miller