What's it take to find housing in this town? That's what the owner of one Seattle plumbing company wants to know.
One of his guys — I'll call him Bob — needed a place to live. "He's a good plumber," says this business owner who asked to not be identified. His new hire is an apprentice who's about six months away from being certified as a journeyman.
When Bob was hired, he'd recently left a bad situation with relatives and was living in his car with a wife and infant. He has a job. Now all he needs is housing.
His new boss thought, "how hard can it be?"
Given Seattle's tight rental market, the growing prejudice against anyone with a criminal history, and the apparent absence of resources for people who don't fit anyone's definition of someone who needs help, the answer is, "plenty hard."
"Nobody will rent to him. Everyone I talk to just does referral. No one does housing. He makes too much money for most programs to look at. The baby is a turn away for a lot of rentals. He has no credit history and a twelve year old felony."
Bob's past includes a twelve-year-old hit and run for which he did some jail time.
After spending several weeks looking for housing, Bob is still spending $1,700 of the $2,500 he makes each month on a weekly hotel rental out on Aurora. He tried a cheaper hotel, but it wasn't exactly family friendly.
We talked about how sometimes a criminal history is a matter of luck and class; how most of us, at some point, have done something that could have destroyed our lives.
"People get in trouble and then decide that they want to be a plumber," said Bob's boss. "I try to teach people to be a responsible member of a trade. You sort through looking for aptitude and commitment, and you stick with the people who rise to the top."
Bob's boss is on this like a bull dog. It's become his personal mission to find his guy a place to live. But he's amazed at how hard this is to do. If anyone has any tips, please send me an email. I'll pass it on.