Powers Unite With Strength To House Homeless Families In White Center

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Story and photos by Nicholas Johnson

On an otherwise rainy September day, rays of sun beat down on dozens of area leaders and residents Wednesday (Sept. 15th) as the group gathered at the future site of the Strength of Place Village for a groundbreaking celebration.

“This is an amazingly beautiful day,” said Aileen Balahadia, executive director of the White Center Community Development Association (WCCDA). “The rain has held off for now. I was joking around that we could tear down this tent and all get the last bit of sun that we need before we get into the rainy season. But just our luck the rain would probably come if we did that.”

Aileen Balahadia of the White Center Community Development Association.

And eventually it would. Yet both the sun and the sentiments remained warm as such political leaders as County Executive Dow Constantine, County Councilmember Jan Drago, Washington Senator Joe McDermott and Burien Mayor Joan McGilton, among others, took the podium to give their blessings to the 30-unit affordable housing project.

Over the next year construction of the project will begin and end, providing homes for homeless and low-income families in summer 2011. In 2008, the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association (DNDA) secured the project site, located at the corner of SW 100th St. and 13th Ave. SW. With financial help from about 10 public and private entities, nearly everyone was glad to call the effort a partnership.

Constantine said, “This resulting partnership offers an effective example of how local non-profits can combine forces, like the Super Friends and the Power Puff Girls. Powers unite.”

Nearly four years ago directors of the WCCDA, DNDA and Capitol Hill Housing joined forces to make their dream of affordable housing a reality for White Center families bringing in fewer than $55,000 each year.

With good faith funding from Impact Capital, the directors began reeling in dollars from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, King County, the State of Washington, Washington State Housing Finance Commission, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Tax Credit Assistance Program, the National Equity Fund, Bank of America, Washington Community Reinvestment Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Sound Families Initiative.

Laushonda Barquet, White Center resident.

Balahadia said community involvement played a major role in designing the project. DNDA Director Derek Birnie reminded the audience of barbeque held at the site two years earlier during which residents along that stretch of 13 Ave. SW shared thoughts about the planned housing project. Laushonda Barquet was one of them.

“It’s important that my voice, our voices, provide the heart and soul and leadership of a place like this – White Center,” said Barquet, who helped design the project.

See an architect’s rendering of the project plan here.

More information about this project available here:

County, city and community leaders grabbed shovels and hard hats during Wednesday’s groundbreaking celebration for the Strength of Place Village project. The gathering marked the beginning of the construction phase of the project, as well as a moment to share thanks.

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One Response to “Powers Unite With Strength To House Homeless Families In White Center”
  1. Shari says:

    What a great story. My congratulations and thanks to the partner organizations who figured out how to work through the challenges and frustrations of collaboration and who viewed the families that will be living there as the most important partners with the most important ideas about how to make this a vibrant, healthy new community that they will take pride in. I would suspect that the “reeling in” of dollars looked a whole lot more like day after day, month after month and year after year of tirelessly establishing relationships, acquiring data and building and presenting a solid business case to many, many agencies, organizations and institutions in a way that brought in a few dollars here, a few there and so on until the project was viable… I look forward to going to a celebration when it’s all finished . Thanks, Nicholas, for reminding us that some of the most important development work is the stuff happening right here in our own community. I hope you keep writing to tell us about outcome data proving how work like this benefits both the families who live there and all of us in this entire part of the county.

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