What makes a neighborhood special and sustainable during a pandemic?
Life during this pandemic has been very tough for many people: lost lives, lost jobs, and a lot of isolation. Through it all, there are plenty of stories of people helping each other.
KUOW’s Zaki Hamid has been collecting these stories of neighbors helping neighbors
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Who do you want us to meet this week?
I want you to meet somebody named Jared Howe. He's a resident of Rainier Vista, which is a mixed-income neighborhood run by the Seattle Housing Authority. It's at the north end of the Rainier Valley.
Jared has lived there with his family for about seven years now. I asked him what makes this neighborhood special:
“Really, from the start, we noticed that people really know each other here, and they go out of their way to get to know folks. We know everyone on our block, and we love it, and we would not want to live anywhere else.”
He also added that there's a big immigrant population from Somalia, Ethiopia and other nearby Eastern African countries, and that the neighbors really look out for each other. They play an active role in each other's lives.
When this pandemic hit, this community felt a responsibility to do whatever they can to help each other out. Some of the families living there are making less than 30% of the area median income.
Jared and another Rainier Vista resident named Siri Mehus came up with a plan to help the community.
What did they decide to do?
When people started losing their jobs, Siri reached out to Jared and asked a really simple question: what can we do to get money to the families who need it? They brainstormed, and decided that a GoFundMe page would probably be the easiest and most effective way of getting these funds.
The timing was really great too, because people had just started to get their stimulus checks. Part of their pitch was "Hey, if you don't need all of your stimulus money, just please consider donating some of it to this cause."
How is that working out?
At the beginning, they didn't think that they would raise that much. Here's Jared again:
“What was funny is that when we first got in touch with each other, we said, ‘Hey, it'd be great if we could get a couple hundred dollars that we could raise, a couple hundred dollars to give to the families here who are going through a rough time. We tossed things around and said ‘Let's aim high. Let's aim for $5,000, aim for $10,000, let's shoot for the moon here.”
I mentioned that part of their pitch was for people to donate some of their stimulus check money if they didn't need it. Jared told me there was one couple who donated the entire amount, $2,400. That was almost a quarter of the goal that they set for themselves already. Others gave part of their check money. They have now exceeded that goal of $10,000.
I'm sure they never anticipated getting $2,400 in one go. Where's this money going?
It's really just going to the families that live in the neighborhood that really need it. It could go towards rent, it could go towards groceries, towards paying bills, utilities. And it's going to be distributed through a community process.
What else did Jared tell you about all this?
When I asked Jared if there's anything else that he wanted to add, he said this:
“We're definitely going through a very difficult time right now, and many folks are going through a harder time than we are, but one of the bright spots about going through this hard time right now is to see how much care there is, and how many people are coming forward to help.”
There are really a lot of great communities in our region and Rainier Vista is just one awesome example.
If you have a story to share about neighbors helping each other, email email@example.com
We're collecting some of these stories at kuow.org/engage
Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.