Advocating for housing stretches neighbor to act
Alisa Shaffer, who grew up in Morgan Acres and raised her children in the Hillyard and West Central neighborhoods, shared her skills and experiences to help legislators address housing issues in West Central Spokane and create HB 2497.
She also learned about the legislative process as she stretched outside her comfort zone, interacting with political professionals to advocate for the bill.
"I've learned by life experience, struggling with addiction, working as a nurses' aide and in a warehouse, and surviving cancer, two heart attacks, a stroke and one TIA," she said.
"I have lived in West Central a long time and know people there. I volunteered with the Off Broadway Ministry and know people's struggle with housing," said Alisa.
She learned about the Spokane Alliance through the Dinner Table and participated in listening sessions. She helped start HEART and is co-chair of it with Katy Shedlock.
"I'm passionate about helping others and I know housing here is bad," said Alisa.
"That's why I was interested in what the Spokane Alliance was doing. Members of the alliance and HEART met with Senator Andy Billig, Rep. Marcus Ricelli and Rep. Timm Ormsby, and then worked to develop a bill that became HB 2497 to expand the use of Tax Incentive Funds (TIF) for affordable housing," she said.
It passed in March, and the governor signed it.
"I had never been involved in such a project and never been an activist," she said. "I sent emails to the governor and legislators."
Alisa said when they built Kendall Yards, it should have meant improvement for West Central, the city's poorest neighborhood.
"Now we are working to have the city change the way the city TIF laws are written, too," she said, aware that coronavirus will slow that action.
Alisa previously helped The Porch and the food bank at Off Broadway Ministry to hand out box dinners and food.
"It's vital for people to have food. Many are homeless and on the streets. Disabled people do not belong on the streets, and school children should not be bouncing from couch to couch. Poor credit scores and background checks make housing tight for many in West Central," she said.
"It's not the way it was. Now the only housing many can find is from a slumlord whose houses are substandard," she said.
Progress on action has been put on hold. HEART canceled its meeting because many are the age group most vulnerable to COVID-19.
A Spokane Alliance listening session was also canceled.
Alisa, who has been a member of the River Christian Church in Hillyard, now lives in a mobile home in Spokane Valley and is applying for SSI disability after a recent stroke.
"Faith helps. I read the Bible daily and pray a lot, especially for my three sons, their spouses and grandchildren, and for my husband's sons, daughter and grandchildren," she said.
At the Dinner Table, attendees also share prayers for concerns for themselves and for each other.
"I grew up in a neighborhood where neighbors up and down the row knew us and would help us. That base gives me a positive attitude," said Alisa, who married at 17 and earned a GED later. "I've been independent all my life. I live one day at a time."
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree,April, 2020