A Full Kitchen Provides a Place to Bake

Sherry moved back to Seattle from Atlanta before the pandemic sent everyone home and remote work became our new reality. Working as a transportation shuttle driver at a local technology company, she returned to Seattle with hopes of being closer to her three children and seven grandkids.

Rising Prices in Atlanta Force a Change  

While getting settled, she found an affordable short-term rental near Redmond. While in Atlanta, the housing market in the Seattle area had drastically changed. “In a matter of years, everything had gotten more expensive,” said Sherry. “I was really struggling to find a place I could afford.”

Then the pandemic hit and in the blink of an eye, the employees at Sherry’s new company were told to work from home. As a contracted employee, she was not afforded the same protections as full-time employees. When the pandemic began stretching from weeks into months and the return date moved further away, Sherry was terminated from her job.

“I work for one of the world’s largest companies, and I am homeless? How can this be?”

With little savings, it was not long before Sherry could no longer afford her short-term rental. She began couch surfing, staying with family and friends. Fearful of becoming a burden, she decided this could not be a long-term option for her.

Quietly and without telling her kids, Sherry began sleeping in her car utilizing an overnight church parking lot in Redmond, which she found utilizing the 2-1-1 crisis intake line.

“For me, my car was everything.”

Every evening, Sherry would drive to the lot, park her car, and begin a nightly ritual. Packed inside her car was everything she owned. To sleep, she would remove clothes and treasured items. With enough room to lay down the seat back, she would attempt another night of uneasy sleep.

A Fresh Start in Seattle 

In the morning, she would rise with the sun and exit the lot. Sherry would spend the day looking for housing, and work, and reassuring her children that nothing was wrong. After months of trying, her persistence finally paid off. Sherry was referred to Gardner House in the Columbia City neighborhood of Seattle.

“Walking through my apartment the first time, it felt like a mansion to me,” said Sherry. On Sundays, my grandkids visit. “With a full kitchen, I’ve been teaching them to cook and bake. They absolutely love my chocolate chip cookies!”

Stabilized, she began attending community meetings, accessing the computer lab to search for employment, and on-site case management. Working with her Case Manager, she landed a job with Norwegian Cruise Line. That is when things really started to come together.

Practicing Kindness 

“I am getting ready for the future,” said Sherry. “But my heart breaks for those who remain unhoused. Every chance I get, I help. Even if a nice word or recognition is the only thing I can give, I give it. I have been where they are. I have walked a mile in those shoes.”

Looking back on this period of her life, Sherry reflects. “I was so embarrassed. I felt so useless. There were nights I no longer wanted to live. It took all my strength to keep fighting. Those grandbabies of mine stayed front and center.”