Sharon Black Lakewood, WA

We need a better social safety net


My name is Sharon Black. I used to work for in customer service, answering calls from home. That was before I started getting sick. I ruptured my rotary cuff so badly that I couldn’t move my left arm. At first I just took a couple days off, but the pain was too much to handle. After several sick days in a row, I was laid off. I ultimately ended up homeless when I couldn’t keep up with my rent.

This year, in April, I applied for the Washington Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program for people with temporary disabilities. I have now been on HEN for 7 months, searching for housing, while living on the street, in shelters, and in my friend’s car.

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) gave me a list of apartments to call that they said would accept HEN, but none of these landlords were willing to work with me. Every apartment complex I have contacted asks for the first month’s rent plus a deposit. This is not within the amount that HEN is able to cover. Even if I could work in spite of my disability, HEN prohibits earning any income as a condition of receiving housing support.

I have also been dealing with pain of a developing fibroid on my uterus. My doctors tell me the fibroid is now the size of a 4-month-old pregnancy and I need to go through surgery soon. But I also know that a hysterectomy will require a 6-week recovery period, and I don’t want to spend that time recovering on the streets.

I wish I could find an apartment that would just accept HEN, without asking for an extra deposit and cash. There is not enough housing for low-income people in general, and it seems like landlords are hesitant to work with me once they hear I receive HEN. I hope that I find a place to live soon, and that the situation changes so that other people do not have to struggle as much to find housing as I have.