The family, dealing with medical issues, recently moved from a Hopelink shelter in Redmond to a two-bedroom apartment in Bellevue. They can live there until the girls grow up — and mom and dad cherish the stability.
When Rebecca Baldwin and Eric Goad moved into their two-bedroom apartment at Hopelink Place in Bellevue on Oct. 8, they and their two young daughters had plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Before that, they’d spent a month and a half in the nonprofit agency’s emergency family shelter in Redmond. Before that, they’d shared a single, small room in the home of Baldwin’s mother, all four splitting a queen-size sleeping mat.
“We basically slept on the floor for three years,” said Goad, 35.
Your dollars at work
Hopelink fights homelessness and poverty in the Eastside and North King County with emergency shelters, housing, food banks, financial assistance for heating bills, transportation, adult education, case workers, access to youth programs and other aid to help stabilize vulnerable families.
Samples of what Hopelink can do with your donation:
$25: Provides 10 seniors and people with disabilities with a month’s worth of fresh fruits and vegetables.
$50: Provides nine homeless people with a two-day emergency bag of food.
$125: Provides nine nights of safe shelter.
Now the girls, Amelia, 8, and Arria, 3½, have a room for themselves, and their parents have some peace of mind.
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Hopelink serves the Eastside and North King County with a range of programs aimed at stabilizing families in economic distress and transitioning households out of poverty. It helps more than 64,000 people each year through its food banks, family-development programs, shelters and housing facilities, shuttles and financial-assistance services, among other offerings.
Hopelink operates two shelters (the one in Redmond and another in Kenmore), plus three long-term housing complexes in Bothell, Duvall and Bellevue and a transitional complex in Redmond. In all, the agency operates 113 units.
What’s unique about the housing program is that it works in tandem with the family-development program. Case managers work with families to help map out a path to self-sufficiency based on their challenges and needs, such as assistance with financial planning, job hunting or skills training, Hopelink spokeswoman Kris Betker said.
This comprehensive approach to fighting poverty is especially important for families like the Goad-Baldwins who are struggling with multiple issues.
Baldwin, 34, said she was diagnosed a decade ago with a type of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a family of degenerative disorders that affects people in different ways but broadly targets connective tissues such as skin, tendons and ligaments, organs, blood vessels and muscles.
When we met, Baldwin wore braces to support her torso and both ankles.
There’s no cure for EDS, but there are treatments for symptoms, and preventive measures. The condition makes even moderate lifting, or other types of physical exertion, difficult for Baldwin. Her muscles are fragile, and her joints are prone to overextension and dislocation. She does not work outside the home.
Just hours after giving birth to Arria, she experienced a life-threatening emergency due to congestive heart failure, a chronic disease that affects the heart’s ability to pump adequate blood to the body’s tissues.
Goad has a part-time job as a live-in caregiver on the weekends, which brings in a little money for the family, and at home he helps tend to Baldwin and the kids. The couple hopes to get a service dog for Baldwin, for when Goad is at work. Baldwin is seeking approval for disability insurance so Goad can serve as her caregiver.
Hopelink Place gives them stability. Baldwin and Goad can stay in their apartment up until their youngest child turns 18, meaning they have the option of raising their daughters in one place for the rest of their childhoods, rather than uprooting them again and again in search of affordable housing. Many transitional-housing programs impose a two-year cutoff for residents. Long waiting lists for transitional and permanent housing are common.
Goad said his family got lucky — an apartment came open far sooner than they’d expected.
They’ve furnished the living room with foldout couches from family and friends. The girls have their own beds, and Baldwin and Goad have a new mattress for their bedroom.
Both girls now have room to run around and just be kids.
Amelia already has started to connect with other kids at the complex and recently gave one of those neighbors a best-friend bracelet.
Baldwin said her life-threatening experience shortly after giving birth gave her a new sense of perspective: Focus on what’s most important, what really matters. Securing stable housing for her family through Hopelink reflects that sense of purpose.
“It’s relieved a lot of anxiety,” Baldwin said of the new living arrangement. “I want them to have as normal a life as I can [provide], given what I have going on.”
The family has received a laptop, diapers, clothes, shoes and other essentials through Hopelink’s partner agencies. They’ve also used the agency’s food bank, and when the apartment’s refrigerator died recently, Baldwin said the agency gave the family a store voucher to replace the food that was lost.
Hopelink also installed a second railing on the staircase to the apartment’s second floor to make it easier for Baldwin to navigate the stairs.
The rental terms at Hopelink Place work on a reduced scale. Baldwin and Goad said that in January, they’ll start paying a third of their household income for rent, minus deductions for each of their children and child-care expenses.
The couple said Hopelink also has helped with the utilities.
Betker, the Hopelink spokeswoman, said that while the family might never be totally self-sufficient due to their circumstances, the goal is for them to achieve sustainable stability and avoid future economic distress or homelessness.
Baldwin and Goad are simply happy to have a place the family can call home.
“It’s taking a while to sink in — that we actually have a place,” Baldwin said.