April Member Highlight: Rebuilding Together Seattle

HDC’s membership represents the housing continuum with several organizations and causes carving out their own specific approach to ensuring everyone in King County having an affordable, healthy, and safe home. Rebuilding Together Seattle (RTS) is no exception and has their own unique approach to tackling our region’s housing crisis.

Rebuilding Together works to eliminate substandard, unsafe, and unhealthy housing conditions, while strengthening neighborhoods and communities. RTS does so through home repair, home rehab, accessibility modifications, and other improvements at entirely no cost to the homeowner or the nonprofit facility they are assisting. RTS has also begun to work with other organizations on neighborhood-level community revitalization projects that can impact community health and safety.

RTS programs primarily serve low-income homeowners – a forgotten middle of our housing spectrum and affordable homeownership population. These are often your neighbors who have lived in their home from twenty to fifty plus years. They are low-income seniors, persons with disabilities, veterans, families with children, and other community members with a high risk of displacement, injury or illness, and other adverse outcomes that can lead to housing instability, despite owning their home.

“For our neighbors in need of a little extra support, that physical affirmation that we value them as part of the community fabric and as individual people with dignity and grace is almost as much a reassurance as it is knowing they will be able to age safely in the home and community they love.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, RTS has suspended their programs and postponed National Rebuilding Month. Executive Director, Caleb Marshall explains, “I think many of us have learned over the last few weeks a little about what that feels like and, even when we have access to resources and a safe living environment, how debilitating that isolation can be.” Many of our low-income neighbors are in incredibly dangerous situations, in which they have exhausted their financial resources and social networks and are really quite isolated. RTS touches on these personal struggles our neighbors are experiencing in their most recent newsletter.

The work of RTS draws communities together in extraordinarily unique and touching ways. “The best feedback from our work is what a transformational, restorative, and hopeful spark that our projects bring into our community members’ lives. I think part of the magic has to do with neighbors connecting to neighbors – we’re bringing together volunteers, whether someone comes as an individual or with one of our business or civic partners, that live, work, and enjoy the neighborhoods and communities that the people they are supporting have contributed to making so special.”

At this time, RTS has reevaluated their year ahead, but their goals remain high. For the time being, they have had to suspend their programs and are canceling their May fundraiser breakfast. They are working to reschedule National Rebuilding Day, a month-long call to service in which nearly 40,000 volunteers complete 1,600 Rebuilding Together affiliate-led projects across the country. Caleb says they remain hopeful that RTS will be able to still meet their goals in full, which means reaching more than 200 households in 2020 for their sixth straight year!

The vast majority of RTS’ work is done by volunteers. With just three staff and three AmeriCorps members, they recruit volunteers with all types of skills, including folks that can help diversify the talent and experience on the RTS Board, people with construction expertise, people with specialized skills such as marketing/graphic design, IT, etc. that can help with committee-type work, and other general volunteers of all walks that are ready to advance their mission. Furthermore, you can reach out to Rebuilding Together Seattle if you assist low-income homeowners, or are a nonprofit that could use help yourselves.

Over 98% of RTS funding comes from individual donations, businesses, and civic groups with less than 2% drawing from public funding sources that are so important to many other important causes. “We’ve always been proud of that fact, but in times like this, when we don’t have companies and organizations funding and joining our projects, and when we have to cancel fundraising events, we especially need those supporters who can to step up and back under-funded organizations like ours,” explained Caleb.

To best stay connected to Rebuilding Together Seattle’s efforts, sign up for their newsletter and  hold Friday, October 2nd on your calendar for RTS’s Beer & Wine Tasting. RTS welcomes, “We would love to have a max capacity turnout, regardless of your past involvement or individual giving capacity.”

While we cannot gather in person to traditionally show up for one another right now, Rebuilding Together Seattle demonstrates how collective efforts can have a lasting impact on our communities for years to come. Thank you for all you do, Rebuilding Together Seattle!