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The Tough Transition Out of Homelessness Amid Seattle’s Rising Housing Costs

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Spark Public

The Tough Transition Out of Homelessness Amid Seattle’s Rising Housing Costs

Formerly homeless youth like Terry Jackson struggle to move from transitional housing to permanent housing in Seattle.

October 5, 2017

When Terry Jackson was 15, his mom lost her job and subsequently, their home in Renton.

“My mom found out she needed to go to a shelter to qualify for more housing and my grandparents moved out of town, so I couldn’t stay there anymore,” Jackson says. “I never thought I’d be in that position.”

As Jackson’s mom moved into a women’s shelter, he found himself homeless — one of an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 youth who experience homelessness each year in King County, according to data from the county’s Count Us In report.

I can’t really do what I want to do right now, I’ve got to just survive," says Terry Jackson.

Over 80 percent of these youth are “local,” according to a report from 2016, in that they listed King County as their last zip code prior to becoming homeless.

Initially, Jackson spent nights at McDonalds, and then moved on to crashing on his girlfriend’s mom’s couch or friends’ places.

“It really forced me to think, and realize some things,” Jackson says. “Like, where I’m at now, where I can go, and how I can help myself to get there.”

Jackson is currently living in transitional housing and working two minimum-wage jobs, one at The Mockingbird Society as a YAEH youth advocate leader. Still, he’d be hard-pressed  to afford market-rate housing in a city that now boasts some of the highest rents in the country.

According to the Rental Affordability Index, the average monthly rent for a single person in Seattle is $1,288.76. A worker earning minimum wage would have to work 87 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the city, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2017 report.

Jackson says he’s resilient and will keep looking ahead. He dreams of pursuing an education in business.

“I’m looking at having to get a third job and even a fourth job,” Jackson says. “I really don’t want to go back to being homeless.”


Chris Barnes

Chris Barnes is a local video producer and musician who discovered his knack for filmmaking while creating videos for his band. After establishing himself as a music video director for local artists, he had the opportunity to freelance for Artzone with Nancy Guppy which eventually led to a career in local television. Chris has produced segments for KCTS 9, The Seattle Channel, Amazon, and Committee for Children.

More stories by Chris Barnes

Stacey Jenkins

Stacey Jenkins is the managing producer of Spark Public. She is an Emmy-award winning producer who is passionate about pushing the boundaries of digital media and training the next generation of multimedia journalists. Stacey has been a Digital Content Producer at KCTS 9 for the past four years; her stories have been showcased locally on IN Close as well as nationally on SciTech Now and the PBS NewsHour's Art Beat. Stacey’s experience also includes working as a senior producer for KPTS, as an assistant media instructor and producer for Portland Community College and a TV news reporter for the CBC in Canada.

Fun Fact: Stacey’s guilty pleasures include over-the-top Halloween decor, eating sweetened condensed milk straight from the can and Maroon 5’s “Sugar” video.

More stories by Stacey Jenkins

There are 2 comments

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I wanted to know how Terry is getting on. Then I noticed this video was from very recently. I really like his determination and positive attitude. I hope he finds his way. Rents are out of this world everywhere these days. Especially Seattle and Vancouver. Happy Holidays to him! 

jliu's picture
Marcy, thank you for your concern. His story really reflects the struggle that many are going through. If you would like more information on how to help, you can reach out to Clay Scott, Program Supervisor at Mockingbird Society.