Feeling the Pinch

We are in week 7 or 8 of a housing search. I have lost track.
We need to find a place for several reasons.
For one, it is getting colder, and our inexpensive little rental house does not have adequate heating. The landlord says the old electrical won't tolerate it. Imagining spending the colder months marooned in a tiny house with damp and musty blankets, a space heater, and two young children bouncing like pinballs around our 800 square feet makes me feel crazy.
For another, a good friend and coworker of mine is currently sleeping in a tent in her friend's sideyard with her 9 year-old kid. Why is this person homeless right now, you ask, when she has a respectable job?
Because she is no longer able to keep pace with the rental market in Olympia. It has become unworkable for a lower-wage single mother to afford an apartment of her own.
And what has always been unworkable remains so- single parenting is an impossible job. She wants to live with another family who can share the burdens and joys of childrearing.
So, somewhere around two months ago, just after she lost her house, we started searching for a large house to rent together. At this time, it was the height of summer, and her kid was off at camp. She planned to stay at a friend's for one month to save money, and then move into a place with us around the time that her kid got home...
Trouble is, we're still looking. Many landlords have said they are not willing to rent to our household of seven. And we have been going to these horrible open houses where the first applicant to finish filling out their application gets the place. So far we have not been the fastest writers.
Meanwhile both our cars have broken down, and her tent is getting wet.
We look at another place tomorrow.
My grandparents both graduated from vocational high schools, and had four children together. My grandfather worked as a telephone repairman, my grandmother was a homemaker until her youngest child went to school. When her mothering duties lessened somewhat, she got a job working part-time as a secretary. They owned their own home. It only had one bathroom, but there were four bedrooms and heating that worked and a big backyard and a dining room. I think of my grandmother at twenty-seven years old, a housewife with four kids. They didn't have a lot of fancy stuff. They ate tuna casserole for dinner, and camped for family vacations. But they had housing security.
You cannot find a family like theirs in Olympia today. Those families have vanished. Those families live in crappy, mold-infested apartments on the far end of Lacey. They have to get food stamps, and still can't afford enough tuna casserole for the month. Or they work three jobs between the two of them and the kids go to daycare 40 hours a week.
My friend's grandparents were farmers. They were poor their whole lives, but they owned acreage, and when things got tough, they'd sell off a little plot, or sell a cow to make ends meet. They worked hard every single day from the time they got up until they went to bed, and they had no luxuries in their life. But they had housing security. For my generation, that is a luxury that only the rich have.
We Olympians are in a bad situation here, and it is getting worse. As the housing market shifts, houses don't sell, and rents are expected to go up.
I know an Olympia family who was displaced when their house burnt down due to faulty electrical. They had a large family and a moderate income, and could not find a single landlord who would rent to them due to their family size. After a year of searching, living in temporary situations, they decided to relocate.
Landlords respond to my classified ad and say, "I have a nice place in Elma that I think would work for you." or Tenino. Or Bucoda. But I don't want to leave the town I have lived in my whole life. I wait for the right place to come along here. Maybe this weekend will be the one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's terrible Jade. Times are certainly changing and I don't think most people find it for the better. I'll keep my eyes open and wish you the best of luck. I'm over in one of those moldy apartments near lacey.
Take care,

10:58 AM  
Blogger crenshaw sepulveda said...

I think everyone that reads this blog knows how I feel about Olympia and why the direction Olympia is taking disturbs me so much. I have been silent for several months but not blind to what has been going on.

I guess what disturbs me the most is all the good people that will be forced away from Olympia. The people of modest means but enormous hearts. These people of big ideas and ideals and tiny purses. Strange how the people with the least in this world also tend to be the most generous. That is what I love about Olympia and that is what we are going to lose.

I have no idea where you or your co-worker and friend's family will end up in Olympia. I'm hoping there is one special place left in Olympia where you can find a home and be for Olympia what she needs. So long as there are voices like yours in Olympia I can have some small hope.

I don't want an Olympia made up of only the wealthy. I want an Olympia that embraces all and finds a place for all. This should be possible, this should be something that we all demand. More to the point Olympia needs this in order to be a place people will care about. If we lose the diversity, if we lose our special people of lesser means, we will have an Olympia people just will not care about. Sure people will live in Olympia and pay handsomely for it, but people will care about Olympia the way they care about any suburb.

I don't know where you will end up. I'm hoping it is in Olympia and I hope you can do this wonderful thing and share a home with your co-worker and child. Someone that sees the world the way you do, someone that responds to the world the way you do, that's what this town needs. Any dreams that are for more then one's self are dreams that should become reality. You are not only in this for yourself, your vision extends beyond your own needs, that is what I call a true Olympian.

9:17 PM  
Blogger sixmaybemore said...

Dear Jade, I hope you have found a house. This is one of the issues that drove us away from Olympia after we were displaced by our fire last Nov. We looked at house after house for our family of eight, starting the very weekend of the fire, all the way up until the weekend we left in June. We had people hang up on us, refuse to give us applications, inform us their homes were too small, ask for a double deposit, or an increased amount of rent because of our family size. It didn't matter that we had never been evicted, had never been behind on our rent, had never left a place with more than normal wear and tear. Door after door was shut in our face. We didn't want to leave, we didn't want to live permanently in South Hill, or Nisqually. We wanted to live in our beloved Olympia. The last straw for us was finding the perfect house, being first in line.... and instead the house was sold, even though it was never advertised. I don't know what's happening to Olympia, and it makes me sad. Even though we're not there anymore, we think of Olympia often, missing it. I hope to see an update soon, with pictures of a sweet house for you.

2:41 PM  
Blogger sixmaybemore said...

I just wanted to add - you know most of what happened and why we felt forced to leave. There are so many, though, that aren't seeing it, they're turning a blind eye to so many things going on that are changing Olympia. One day those people are going to wake up and wonder what happened, and it's going too late.

There have been jokes for years about Olympia turning into a suburb of Seattle. It's not such a funny joke now that it's actually happening.

4:10 PM  

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