LIHI Volunteers

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Transitions and Changes

Hello volunteers and community members!

I have been your volunteer coordinator for the last 2 years and it has been a really amazing experience! I have met so many wonderful people and gotten to work on so many great projects with you all.

The volunteers who come work with us at the Low Income Housing Institute and the Urban Rest Stop are true stewards of their community; using their talents, skills and expertise to create wonderfully supportive environments where our residents and patrons of all ages can grow and thrive.

That is why with a heavy heart I bid you all farewell as I transition from my position at LIHI. It has been a really amazing couple of years and I could not thank you all enough for letting me be part of your great work.

We are collecting job applications for the new Volunteer and Advocacy Coordinator. We are hoping to get another great person on our team that can continue to support the great work of all the people in our community. Please take a look at the job description if you are interested or if you know someone who might be. Feel free to send me any questions you might have.

Mercedes Elizalde

Volunteer and Advocacy Coordinator JD 12.16.15

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Staff Highlight: Alicia McJannet

Ride the Ducks_Alicia

Meet a LIHI staff member! Alicia regularly works with volunteers and has some great things to say about the experience. 

Name: Alicia McJannet

Which property do you work at: Cate Apartments

What is your role at LIHI: I am a Case Manager. I assist homeless (mostly veteran) families and their children to connect them to local resources, assist them in finding more permanent housing and coordinate events to build a sense of community.

How long have you worked for LIHI: 8 months.

Most recent volunteer project you supervised or participated in at LIHI: We ran a 6 week Summer Program on-site for residents that focused on animals and nature. I had three lovely volunteers assisting me, two from outside the organization and one resident parent. We took the kid’s input and filled the days with hands-on craft activities, interactive board games and weekly field trips to the zoo, the aquarium and the Pacific Science Center, among others. We are currently working with a volunteer artist to take the children’s drawings of animals they saw and create a mural in the Community Room!

Tell us a story from one of your volunteer supervision experiences: One of our volunteers for this year’s Summer Program just happened to have spent years volunteering at the Woodland Park Zoo.  She was more than excited to join the kids on a trip there. The kids got to enjoy her backstage knowledge and ability to point out the apes each by name. Her enthusiasm and interest in our venture coupled with the kids excitement made it a great experience for everyone.

Best benefit to working with volunteers: It’s amazing to watch the families develop relationships with the volunteers and for the kids to start ask for them by name. There has been a lot of room for volunteers to either create programs themselves or to have input on activities which are already underway so it is also rewarding to see volunteers grow as they explore subjects they are passionate about and share that with residents. Working with some of the UW MSW Interns has also made me reflect on why I do what I do as I watch them grow in their profession.

Funniest or most sincere comment you ever heard from a LIHI volunteer: There was a transitional housing resident who had recently come from homelessness and who was currently in recovery. After one volunteer shift where she was encouraged to lead the activities, she thanked me for the empowering trust I put in her. She said she was (expectedly) thoroughly exhausted but that she had so much fun and found it incredibly rejuvenating to be around the light-heartedness and the hilarious comments of the children.

Do you volunteer outside of LIHI? If so, where/what: I have done volunteer internships at the KC Juvenile Justice Center and at New Beginnings DV Shelter. Most recently, I have volunteered at Books to Prisoners, an agency that mails out free books in response to the requests of incarcerated individuals.

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New Volunteer Opportunities

Tiny House Village Open House

On Sunday, September 20th LIHI will celebrate with its partner organizations the opening of a tiny house village at 22nd & Union in Seattle. The tiny house village is scheduled to open at the beginning of December, but we’re opening the site early to invite our new neighbors in to see the space and meet the potential residents. We’re looking for volunteers to help setup, prepare the BBQ, talk about tiny houses and tear down. Volunteers are needed beginning at 12pm. To sign-up, please contact:

Ballard Urban Rest Stop

The Urban Rest Stop, a project of the Low Income Housing Institute, provides a clean, safe and dignified place where individuals, families, elders and youth can access restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities free of charge.

The Ballard Urban Rest Stop is set to open in late September. We are looking for people who would be willing to start volunteering before the opening and continue volunteering after the opening. Before the official opening volunteers will help to set up the space so that it is a welcome and well stocked space the moment the doors open. Regular duties after the opening will be consistent with other URS volunteers roles:


  • Ensure that the Urban Rest Stop provides a welcoming, clean and safe environment.
  • Respect the confidentiality of URS patrons.
  • Assist with the maintenance of appointments for laundry and showers. Stock and sort hygiene and cleaning supplies.
  • Distribute personal care items as requested and when donations are available.
  • Distribute towels and coveralls for patron use.
  • Assist with the collection of demographic and facility information.
  • Help maintain a high level of facility cleanliness.

Applications are available at the link above. For questions, please contact:

Meadowbrook After School Programs

Help kids transitioning out of homelessness succeed in school!

Goal of Position: Kids transitioning out of homelessness face many challenges: poverty, lack of connections in their new community, uncertainty about their future housing. Many are also refugees and are adjusting to their new surroundings. But the one challenge our young residents should be able to focus most on is academic success to make their futures bright.

Schedule: This opportunity is available throughout the school year.

  • We are looking for an energetic youth leader to facilitate enrichment activities and games on Mondays from 4-6pm.
  • We are also looking for high quality homework tutors to support academic studies on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-6pm.

Applications are available at the link above. For questions, please contact:

LIHI’s Annual Auction & Gala

On Friday, October 23rd, LIHI will host its annual fundraising dinner at the Four Seasons in downtown Seattle. We’re in need of several volunteers to assist with the setup, operation and tear-down of the event. This is a one-time volunteer opportunity to take place on October 23rd.

Tasks include: 

  • Dessert Dash Pick-Up (driving to different bakeries to pick-up the donated dessert items) – between 10am-2pm
  • Dessert Dash or Silent Auction Setup – Start: 3:45pm
  • Registration Assistance – Start: 4:30pm
  • Greeters – Start: 4:30pm
  • Game & Raffle Sellers – Start: 4:30pm
  • Silent Auction Mobile Bidding Assistance (we’re introducing online bidding this year and will need people to assist the attendees with this process) – Start: 4:30pm *also requires attending a training prior to shift*
  • Live Auction Recorder (monitor and track the bids during the live auction) – Start: 6pm
  • Tear Down Assistance (carrying items to cars, closing the silent auction and cleaning up) – End of event

Please contact Melissa to sign-up:

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Volunteer Success Story: July 2015

For those of you who don’t know, LIHI currently operates two Urban Rest Stops (URS). One is in downtown Seattle and the other in the U-District. Both Rest Stops are run with the help of some tremendous volunteers. Each shift includes at least one volunteer working alongside our staff members. LIHI has plans to open a third URS in Ballard this fall and we hope to bring on additional volunteers at that time.

Our URS volunteers are some of the hardest working folks we know. Whether it’s waking up at 4am to help open the downtown URS or scrubbing the showers clean after each use, they’re always willing to help out no matter how unpleasant the task. Check out just a few of the projects our volunteers have undertaken in the last few months:

• Volunteers from Seattle Academy and Seattle Prep made hygiene kits to distribute at resource fairs.
• A volunteer is using her sewing skills to help us mend broken coveralls for patrons to wear while washing their clothes.
• Volunteers testified at the budget hearings about the importance of the URS’s services.
• Service-learning students from the University of Washington are incorporating their experience at the URS into their academic work.
• Nursing students from Seattle University provided health referrals and answering public health related questions from patrons every Thursday for a semester.
• And, of course, our regular volunteers help keep the URS clean and welcoming every day!

In addition to the wonderful volunteers we have at both Rest Stops, we also have two lead volunteers that help schedule our other volunteers and work alongside them all day long. These volunteers come to us through a one year commitment with a volunteer corps program. Margot Oliver (Lutheran Volunteer Corps) has volunteered in the U-District and Jane Brennan (Jesuit Volunteer Corps) at the Downtown URS for the last year. Their one-year shifts are unfortunately coming to an end this summer. Margot and Jane have been a great help to us and we wish them the best of luck in the future. We will definitely miss their caring smiles, positive attitudes and hard work.

On behalf of the staff at LIHI and the URS, we want to thank everyone that has given their time to assist our patrons and maintain our facilities. We couldn’t do this work without the countless hours our volunteers have contributed. THANK YOU!

20150224_143741_resized IMG_5765 URS_UD 047 IMG_5763

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LIHI Staff Spotlight: John Syverson


Name: John Syverson

Which property do you work at: I’m based in the main office, but oversee all properties.

What is your role at LIHI: I’m the facilities manager. I assist other staff members in maintaining the buildings on a day-to-day basis.

How long have you worked at LIHI: Since 1998!

Most recent volunteer project you supervised or participated in at LIHI: This week we have 17 high school students visiting LIHI. One of the Volunteer Program Coordinators approached me to help find some sites that might have a project suitable for the students. I was able to help her find a painting project at the Frye and a landscaping project at Martin Court. Both projects are greatly needed and I’m excited to have them.

Tell us a story from one of the volunteer projects you supervised: A year or two ago we had a group of high school students from Texas here as part of an alternative spring break trip. The students knew they would be volunteering, but had no idea what the experience would be like. I don’t think most had ever volunteered before. I worked with them for a week to rehab some commercial space in one of our apartment buildings. They were given several opportunities to interact with LIHI residents and spent some time visiting other housing and homelessness agencies in Seattle as well. By the end of the week, I could tell they were very much changed and humbled by the experience. They couldn’t believe that so many people were unable to afford housing. They were shocked by the number of people standing in line for food at a nearby mission. I enjoyed being a part of an experience that I felt helped alter some perspectives.

Best benefit to working with volunteers: It’s nice to know that people are still willing to help other people. We’re fortunate to have a lot of volunteers in this area. Some cities aren’t so lucky.

Most sincere comment you’ve ever heard from a volunteer: I once had a volunteer tell me about his personal experience with homelessness as a child. He was volunteering with a group of Washington State alumni that had received a scholarship to attend college. He qualified for the scholarship based on income. As a child, he spent seven years living in a car with his mother. In his teen years, they were able to move into low-income housing. He never thought he would be able to go to college, but was so grateful for the experience. He truly believed that without the stable housing and the scholarship he received he never would have succeeded in college. He wanted to volunteer with a housing agency as a way to give back to those in a similar situation. He was a great guy.

Do you volunteer outside of LIHI: Yes, I’ve volunteered about 700 hours in the community over the last decade or so. I’ve constructed houses with Habitat for Humanity, built handicap ramps with the City of Seattle, volunteered with numerous low-income individuals, erected flagpoles at the Washington Memorial Cemetery and participated in the One Night Count.

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LIHI Staff Spotlight: Courtney Francis

In an effort to help our volunteers and staff get to know each other better we are continuing our staff interview feature. This month we’re highlighting LIHI staff person, Courtney Francis, who has assisted and supervised several of our volunteers. Please take some time to get to know the Arion Court Case Manager.

CourtneyWhich property do you work at: I work at Arion Court which is a 36 bed building in downtown Seattle for homeless male veterans and low income adult males.

What is your role at LIHI: I’m a Clinical Case Manager. I work closely with our tenants to encourage self sufficiency, either through referrals to health and mental health care, substance abuse treatment, vocational services, permanent housing, budgeting, financial and/or legal services, and anything else that affects our tenants well being. I also work with our tenants to remove the barriers preventing our guys from achieving the lives they want to live. We utilize a LIHI 12 passenger van to go on day trips to the Zoo, the Aquarium, BBQ at Alki, twice weekly trips to local food banks, trips to affordable grocery stores like WINCO, and more.

How long have you worked for LIHI: July 2015 will be 2 years with LIHI.

Most recent volunteer project you supervised or participated in at LIHI: At Arion Court, we have two Masters in Nursing I interns from Seattle U and two Masters in Social Work interns from UW, all of which I directly provide clinical supervision.

Tell us a story from one of your volunteer supervision experiences: The largest project I have ever seen at Arion Court was last October 2014, when Home Depot Foundation supplied about 75+ volunteers on site to paint the entire interior of our building in one day! It was chaos, there were so many people in each of our tiny hallways that no one could get by without getting paint on them. However, the day turned out to be a lot of fun and we even had several of our residents get involved with the painting project on that day.

Best benefit to working with volunteers: It gives me a chance to share my passion for social work and commitment to working with our homeless and low income population with others who are not employed and who are learning about this line of work.

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Volunteer Success Story: Birthdays by Special Delivery

Birthdays By Special Delivery

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Birthdays by Special Delivery is a program that LIHI has offered with the help of two volunteers for the last three years. Volunteers Nancy and Judy have spent the first Saturday of the month celebrating birthdays with LIHI children. Three years ago Nancy and Judy (sisters) heard about a group of women who were throwing birthday parties for children staying in shelters. They were inspired by the work these women were doing, and it really hit home for them. Nancy, as a child, did not get many birthday parties. Her birthday is close to  other major holidays and this led to her birthday being lumped into other celebrations. Recently Judy found herself on hard times, she was laid off from a good job she had for a long time and was finding it difficult to get back into the job market. She found herself relying on social service programs to keep her steady as she re-focused and re-established herself. She was using many of the same programs our residents use and developed a new appreciation for the difficulties people face trying to find stability.

Taking their personal experience and their new found inspiration they approached a friend and colleague and asked how they might help. That friend was LIHI executive director, Sharon Lee. Sharon was also excited about the idea and connected Nancy and Judy to the LIHI volunteer department. Nancy and Judy have now hosted these fantastic parties at two different LIHI sites. Children who participate are formerly-homeless, low-income and living in transitional housing. Their parties bring together the kids of the building to celebrate and play together. They’re helping us build new community ties among our residents and give kids a great experience they will always remember. The parties always include a fun theme, games, cake, fresh fruit and juice, and presents for the birthday children of the month.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Michelle Dillon

10,000 People Are Only the Start

Written By: Michelle Dillon (LIHI Volunteer)

Two months ago, the registration for a local lottery opened online. More than 20,000 households entered. The prize, for the lucky 2,500 households who walked away victorious, was a low income housing voucher from the Seattle Housing Authority. It was only the second Seattle Housing Authority lottery since 2008. The unlucky households resumed their waits for affordable housing.

To everyone reading this: we are in a bona fide housing crisis. There is no other term to encompass what Seattle is enduring.  The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle was $1,580 by the beginning of 2015. To put this into perspective, an individual working full time and earning the current minimum wage in Seattle right now will earn $1,760 per month. Pre-tax. More than 100,000 workers in Seattle earn around minimum wage, yet we have the 8th most expensive rents in the country. Is it any wonder that the waitlists for affordable housing can stretch out for years? Or that each year the One Night Count finds more individuals sleeping without shelter?

I am lucky. I can afford to call Seattle my residence as well as my home. I have volunteered at the downtown Urban Rest Stop (URS) for more than three years. During this time I have met some of the 10,000 estimated homeless individuals in Seattle make use of the URS’s laundry and showers. Some are just passing through Seattle, but many more also call this city their home. Some of these individuals have been without housing for longer than I’ve lived here. I have watched the URS’s intrepid (and patient) staff try and try again, navigating seas of bureaucracy and paperwork. I’ve watched near misses for patrons of the URS and unflagging optimism for the next opportunity.

I’ve watched veterans and families and survivors of domestic abuse and working adults and recovering addicts and ex-felons and people struggling with mental health issues and physical ailments and people with incredible resilience and resourcefulness and complexities. I’ve watched with pride as the URS has overcome resistance from Ballard residents and persevered in its plans to build a third facility in that neighborhood. I’ve watched members of our community burdened unnecessarily by homelessness.

I have watched and I have acted. Had I not been volunteering at the URS since 2012, I would not be so aware of the magnitude of the housing issues we face today. It’s one thing to hear that more than 10,000 individuals were counted homeless during the One Night Count in 2015. It’s quite another to walk Ballard during a chilly January night and tally those individuals yourself. It’s one thing to read about soaring rent prices. It’s another thing to stand with hundreds of advocates at the Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day in Olympia each year to demand more equitable housing policies. I said that I watched with pride as the fight for the third URS was won, but it was with equal parts frustration; to paraphrase the manager of the URS, a hygiene facility could be built in every neighborhood and still Seattle would have need for more. I have seen the need first-hand, and it has motivated me to tell you about it.

This volunteer profile tells a story, but it’s only one story about housing and homelessness in Seattle. I urge every reader to personalize these issues. Talk. Learn. Put faces to numbers. Then act to help our community in a way that feels right for you. I have told you that an estimated 10,000 people in Seattle are homeless. But 10,000 people are only the start.

Low Income Housing Institute – Volunteer Opportunities:

Washington Low Income Housing Alliance – Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day:

Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness – One Night Count:

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February – March 2015 Volunteer Success Stories

We’ve seen lots of great volunteerism in the last two months. We’re highlighting two of the volunteer projects below.

Seattle Works Group Projects 

In FebCC_Collageruary, a group of Microsoft volunteers worked with the children at Columbia Court. They led the children in arts and crafts projects like making friendship bracelets, finger painting and creating caterpillar clothespins. The kids had a great time and got to eat lunch with the volunteers afterwards. This group of Microsoft employees partner with Seattle Works one Saturday a month to volunteer with LIHI and other area nonprofit organizations.

Several other groups of Seattle Works volunteers also assisted us at the Frye Apartments and Denny Park Apartments. The Frye Apartments saw two groups in February and another in March! The Frye volunteers helped get their donation space organized and cleaned up. The volunteers at Denny Park helped weed the community garden and spruce up the hallways with new bulletin board decorations.

After School Homework ClubCC_HomeworkClub_2015 029

Every week, volunteers dedicate a couple of hours to helping LIHI children do their homework and increase their reading skills. Properties like Columbia Court and Meadowbrook View benefit from volunteers dedicating their time to the program. These volunteers commit to at least three months of service with the program and work with the children at least once a week. The children are always excited to see the volunteers and have made improvements in their school work through their participation in the program. We look for additional volunteers each school year. Interested parties can fill out an application online.

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Staff Highlight: Arthur

In an effort to help our volunteers and staff get to know each other better we have introduced a new interview feature. This month we’re highlighting LIHI staff person, Arthur Warmoth, who has assisted and supervised several of our volunteers. Please take some time to get to know one of the Frye Apartments Case Managers.

Name: Arthur WarmothPicture1

Which property do you work at: The Frye Apartments

What is your role within LIHI: I work with formerly homeless adults who have a variety of needs and vulnerabilities; physical and mental health problems, substance abuse issues, lack of adequate community support networks or the living skills necessary to maintain housing.

How long have you worked for LIHI: Five long years.

Most recent volunteer project you supervised or participated in at LIHI: A couple come to mind. A Seattle Works team came to organize our basement areas, and an AmeriCorps group came to play Super Bowl Bingo with a bunch of our residents.

Tell us a story from one of your volunteer supervision experiences: We were cooking some football game night type snacks for our residents in our kitchen. Unfortunately, unknown to us, the oven was not completely cleaned before we started cooking. Needless to say, our enclosed kitchen area started to fill up with smoke pretty quick! The volunteers and I were frantically waving dish towels and platters around, hoping the sprinklers would not be set off. It all turned out fine in the end; the residents enjoyed the snacks and having the volunteers hang out with them while playing quite a few energetic rounds of Bingo. And getting a lot of Seahawks gear, as well!

Best benefit to working with volunteers: Reinvigorated by seeing the enthusiasm of others willing to take time out of their lives to in some way help those in need.

Funniest or most sincere comment you ever heard from a LIHI volunteer: A couple of our residents came downstairs to meet the volunteers and see the progress of their work. They expressed their gratitude to the volunteers. When the volunteers were leaving, one of them said to me it was very fulfilling and rewarding to receive such positive feedback from the people they came here to help.

Do you volunteer outside of LIHI? If so, where/what: Not really. Family obligations do not give much time outside of work for volunteer activities. I have volunteered in association with organizations like SKCCH with the One Night Count, or the King/Pierce Counties Hoarding Task Force helping on a Clean Out day. Only other volunteer activity I’ve participated in are activities associated with my daughter, such as Joyas Mestizas; a Mexican folkloric dance group for youths.

Why does LIHI need volunteers: When people move in here, our first step is to make sure they have access to the services that will continue to provide their basic physiological needs, such as food and shelter, and how to maintain that access. Then we assist them in establishing a sense of security living here, whether it’s a matter of financial security or through continued access to a healthcare safety net, among other needs. But what we really strive to do, and where volunteers can and do provide an essential service, is fulfilling that sense of belonging and community that can be difficult to feel when the personal experience of isolation and ostracism that occurs with a history of homelessness is so overwhelming. When volunteers come to our site and interact with our residents, or do an activity that in some small way makes this a better place to live for our residents, it gives our residents a sense of not just living here but being at home.