When Robert “Uncle Bob” Santos created Inter*Im (known today as InterIm CDA) in the early 1970s, he met with businesses, activists, and community leaders. One of their first initiatives was to preserve affordable housing opportunities in the Chinatown International District (CID). Along the way, the organization grew into offering a multitude of other services, and helped create other service provider organizations such as Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) and International Community Health Services (ICHS). More than 40 years later, InterIm’s housing services and homelessness prevention program is still an essential part of the community.
In 1975, InterIm led the creation of a nonprofit organization called the International District Housing and Social Services (IDHSS) to preserve affordable housing in the neighborhood. IDHSS later changed its name to International District Housing Alliance (IDHA). In 2012, IDHA merged into InterIm. Jill Wasberg, Resource Development and Marketing Manager of InterIm, said that back in the IDHA days, a lot of the clients were from the CID or surrounding neighborhoods. Today, they come from 15 counties in Washington state. Wasberg said that one client came from as far as the city of Sequim in Clallam County.
Most of the clients that come through InterIm’s doors in Nihonmachi seeking housing assistance are not homeless people living on the streets, according to Wasberg. They are those who are couch-surfing, living in their cars, or facing eviction. InterIm assists people according to their need; covering their rent and bills, for example.
“It’s pretty intense, and that is what makes the housing services unique because if you’re just gonna call 211, you’re not gonna get hose wrap-around services,” said Wasberg. “It’s a really culturally responsive program that they wouldn’t get elsewhere.”
InterIm also provides furnished homes to people escaping domestic violence. The domestic violence program is unique not only because its case managers can speak 10 Asian Pacific Islander languages, but it also prevents family separation. Currently, in most of City of Seattle shelters for women who are domestic violence survivors, teenaged sons are not allowed. InterIm’s program welcomes teenaged sons.
In a 2012 report cited by Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, 41-61 percent of Asian women nationally report domestic abuse—both physical and sexual—by their intimate partner in their lifetime. This figure is two to three times that of white women, and does not reflect to cases that go unreported.
InterIm also converts historical buildings in the neighborhood into affordable housing or workforce housing, as it calls it. To be qualified, applicants have to make certain percentages below the area median income, which is about $80,000.
InterIm’s latest housing development project, Hirabayashi Place, was completed in March 2016. Eight years passed between the acquisition of the property—a vacant building that was a night club in its previous life—to the construction of the $30 million building to the residents’ move-in day. Some of InterIm’s other projects like the Eastern Hotel and the NP Hotel, however, did not take nearly as long to renovate and house residents with a mix of medium to low incomes.
Hirabayashi Place received 300 applications for its 96 apartments.
InterIm released in late September their “Seattle Chinatown-International District 2020 Healthy Community Plan.” The document elaborates on the problems faced by the community and the solutions InterIm seeks to provide in collaboration with other organizations to build a holistically healthy community. One such solution is to “stabilize residential and commercial renters and owners through direct services.”
“We will advocate to revise 211 coordinated entry requirement for housing services to remove barriers to accessing services, especially among non-English speakers, so that individuals and families facing eviction and homelessness can more easily be stabilized and placed into safe, affordable housing,” wrote the authors of the plan Valerie Tran, Tom Im and Kay Nelson.