Blog Post

Thanksgiving Message 2018

November 23, 2018
Michael Mirra, Executive Director

Dear Friends of THA;

As you may know, I write at this time of the year to catch you up on the news from the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA).  I do that with the attached letter, if you care for some details.  The letter recounts a lively year for THA: Here is a sampling:

Arlington Drive Youth Campus
We made very good progress this year on THA’s ambitious, innovative, and essential Arlington Drive Youth Campus for Homeless Youth and Young Adults.  We have assembled the financing to build it.  We are deep into design.  We chose our construction contractor.  We chose our service providers.  We convened a wide array of community voices – including formerly homeless youth – who advise us with these choices.  We expect to break ground in January.  This campus will greatly enhance what the Puget Sound can offer to homeless young people.  It will give them a second chance at an adolescence and a second chance at an adulthood without abuse, exploitation, impoverishment and fear.

THA Education Project
The letter reports on a very busy year for THA’s Education Project.  This project is THA’s effort to spend a housing dollar, not just to house a needy household, but also to help them and their children succeed in school and help public schools and colleges educate low-income students.This past year THA and Tacoma Community College (TCC) expanded their College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) to scale.  It now will house or pay to house 150 homeless or near homeless TCC students.  About 70% of them will be parents of young children.  About 25 of these students will have begun their studies in prison.  They come out of prison to campus and continue their studies.  Most of them are moms reuniting with children.  Their housing problems are worse them most.  Temple University will be our third party evaluator.  The attached letter also describes the challenge this program faces in Tacoma’s new, brutal rental market.  The rising rents and lowering vacancy rate in Tacoma make it hard for students, even with THA’s rental assistance, to find housing near the campus.  The letter describes how THA is responding to this challenge with property purchases and project based subsidies around the campus.

THA and Tacoma Public Schools spent the year planning the expansion of their Elementary School Housing Assistance Program (ESHAP).  The ESHAP began at McCarver Elementary School, with encouraging outcomes over 6 years.  Starting next year, we hope to expand it the program to all schools and all grades in Tacoma.  To do that we have to puzzle out a new model to account for Tacoma’s new rental market.  To help us do that we assembled an effective and wide ranging group of community advisors, including parents, school staff, community organizations and leaders.

This year also saw good growth in the enrollment of THA’s Children’s Savings Account (CSA) Program for the children of Salishan.  Last Summer, our Mayor Victoria Woodards, Councilmember Catherine Ushka and Superintendent Carla Santorno led the celebration to cut the ribbon on a new Salishan bank branch by our wonderful partner, Heritage Bank.  This bank will do several things, all of them important.  It will help CSA students and their parents make deposits.  It will help get unbanked families banked.  And it will more firmly imbed the CSA into the visible walking Salishan landscape.  When children walk to school and back they will pass by that bank.  They can think of it as their bank.  And they can think of their money in there.  Heritage Bank at Salishan is also the first new bank on the Eastside in many years, reversing and recouping years of disinvestment by other banks. 

In this attached letter, you can read THA’s other efforts, with community partners and our partners at HUD, to manage Tacoma’s new rental market.  The letter recounts what happens when a large encampment of homeless persons grows up around the administrative offices of a public housing authority.  The letter reports that the Harvard Kennedy School named one of THA’s education projects as among the nation’s top 25 most innovative governmental initiatives for 2018!  And the letter explains how and why THA became the only housing authority we know of in the nation to become the proud landlord of a hookah lounge.

Writing the letter was also a chance to reflect on THA’s work, its value and what it takes to get it done.  It takes hundreds of partners like you.  Another reason to write the letter then is to thank you.  Thanksgiving is a good time to do that.  In expressing these holiday wishes and explaining why this work we share with you is important, we cannot do better than quote a letter we received on Wednesday.  It is from the father of an immigrant family.  The father recounts receiving THA’s rental assistance, its help to learn English, get an education and skills, and THA’s assistance to buy the family’s first American home.  The father describes what that meant to the family.  His letter shows at the end of the attachment.  He closes his letter this way:

“Please accept our sincerest thanks and gratitude.  We wish all blessings to all who is working in this office. We wish blessings to you and your families.  May all of you have nice and peaceful homes and everything good in it. God Bless You and America. Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.”

From THA’s Board of Commissioners and staff, and on behalf of that father and thousands like him, thank you for your partnership.  Thank you very much.

— Michael