Brokers share the conversation on homelessness

The region has a lot of work to do on housing and homelessness, but if we work together, we can do it.

That was the theme of A Compassionate Conversation hosted by Windermere at The Cinerama in Seattle on Monday in the firm’s first company-wide discussion about homelessness in Seattle.

“We are in the business of housing,” Windermere co-president OB Jacobi said in a prepared statement, “and ideally that means helping our communities find ways to house everyone.” Jacobi noted that, despite the Windermere Foundation’s long-term efforts to fight the causes of homelessness, “lately the dialogue around homelessness has become extra loud and the media is turning up the volume, sometimes in ways that don’t help solve the problem.”

Kicking off Monday’s event, Jacobi addressed his own mixed emotions around this dialogue. Feeling the need to expand the conversation, he and a group of Seattle-based agents put together the event “to help in-city Windermere brokers better understand Seattle’s homelessness crisis and provide them with tools they can use to their everyday interactions with clients, friends, family, and people who are homeless or experiencing housing instability.”

Mindy Woods was one of three brave women who shared her story of experiencing homelessness in front of the crowd. A single mom, Mindy found herself and her 13-year-old son without a place to live after black mold forced them to leave their apartment and there was nowhere else affordable for them to go. She called 55 phone numbers, from community resource lines to the YWCA, and couldn’t find the immediate help they needed. “Homelessness happens, it may be happening to people you know. Nobody’s immune,” she said.

Mark Putnam, executive director of the Accelerator YMCA, a branch of the YMCA of Greater Seattle that works with youth experiencing homelessness, gave the crowd statistics, solutions and some perspective. “There’s all this emphasis on what the City Council is doing, when many parts of the problem are due to failures at the federal level,” he said. “The biggest systemic failure is the lack of investment in housing, not over the last year, but over decades.”

Michael Seiwerath, VP of advancement and external affairs for Capitol Hill Housing, said that we should all make the case for more neighbors. “Talk to your neighbors who are scared of loss and change and tell them that if we welcome more people to this region, neighborhoods will be even more vibrant.”

“The housing emergency in our community is very real and very complex. Every individual situation is different and there is no single solution that fits everyone,” said Caitlin Olsen, Seattle King County REALTORS® Board member and broker with Windermere – Ballard who attended the event. “We need more housing and different types of housing. Though we have a long way to go, Washington’s condo reform bill is a huge step in the right direction!”