Submitted by Homes First

2020 has been one crazy year. There are so many unusual things happening that truly can make your head spin. One thing that you can depend on to be consistent is Homes First. This year, they are celebrating their 30th Birthday and they are not letting pandemics, fires, floods, or anything else stop them from ensuring more low-income people have a safe and affordable rental home to call their own.

It can seem daunting to take on the mission of creating and maintaining homes forever but that is exactly what the founders of Homes First took on back in 1989 when they formed the organization. They could see that affordable rental homes were becoming harder to find even 30 years ago and they were determined to do something about it. With help from Olympia Federal Savings and the Federal Home Loan Bank, they purchased, moved, and renovated their first two homes and formed a nonprofit to continue that kind of work.  Now, in 2020 with 47 properties they are serving over 275 people every year. Two hundred seventy-five people who have the hardest time finding and retaining a safe, healthy and affordable home.

This work is not done in isolation however. One of the values of Homes First and its staff and Board of Directors is our partnerships.  Working collaboratively with other organizations in our community ensures that people living in Homes First homes get services they need if and when they need them. This allows Homes First to focus on acquiring more homes for more people and allows our partners to focus on the services they provide. It is a win-win for everyone involved.

Homes First is also known for being innovative in the ways they partner and the ways they work to improve their tenants’ lives. In 2020, they partnered to help manage Merritt Manor in Olympia, an 82-unit apartment complex for people whose income is between 60-80% of area median income. They have also partnered with Community Solar and Puget Sound Energy to start solar paneling their homes and office, and are a part of the exciting Hummingbird Solar Project. In these ways, they continue to grow the work they do, support the people they serve, and expand the ways the community is being served. These types of projects not only give homes to more people with a landlord that treats them with respect and dignity but also helps lower our community’s environmental footprint.

In their 30th Birthday year, Homes First recognizes the work all former members of their Board of Directors have done to bring them to where they are today and to call out the current Board members who are leading them into the future:

  • President & Chair:  Mary Roberts
  • Vice President:  Chris Lester
  • Treasurer:  Kai Neizman
  • Secretary:  Thomasina Cooper
  • Members:  Leatta Dahlhoff, Shannon Glenn, Dannette Molina, Nate Peters, Jeannine Roe, Wayne Souza, Evette Temple, Kevin Sparks, Hallee Aguilera Starborn

These community leaders have made it a priority to use their valuable volunteer hours to support a mission that they feel best serves their community and makes our region a better place for everyone.  They invite you to join them in their support by making a financial commitment to Homes First to ensure that this mission-driven housing organization continues to grow to provide more opportunities for our most vulnerable neighbors to have a home they can rely on even in times that are unpredictable. To donate, visit the Homes First website. Learn more on their YouTube channel.

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