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Elena Diaz was on a bus in San Salvador when two men – both gang members – approached her. One waved a gun.
“We know where you live,” the man said. “We know what color your house is. We know where your son goes to school.”
Elena was terrified. She worked for the government office of public safety, responsible for legal and technical recommendations for the correctional system. So although she protested, Elena had reason to believe the men knew exactly what they claimed.
Utility worker Maria never expected that a routine visit to check on an electricity meter at a Hopelink housing facility in Kenmore would bring her to tears. It had been years since she and her young family had moved into the shelter during a very dark time in her life, but on that afternoon last fall, the emotions came flooding back as it if were yesterday.
“I was so scared,” Jacqueline said. “I didn't know what I was going to do.”
The young mom had tried desperately to keep her family together. But three years into her marriage, Jacqueline’s world was falling apart. Her husband had systematically cut his wife’s ties to the outside world. He restricted her friendships. When her car broke down, he refused to get it fixed. He prohibited her from getting a job.
“I lost everything,” Maria said tearfully. “My family came apart. I had no money, no job, nowhere to live.”
Living in a station wagon in the dead of winter was the last thing Renay and Ronald expected only few months earlier, when both parents were working and settled into a stable life in New Mexico. But then, Ronald lost his job and wasn’t able to find anything else. And the couple, victims of a horrific crime several years earlier, were advised to move away from the area by local authorities when the person responsible was about to be released from prison.
The recession caused a lot of heartbreak globally, and for some in this region it was the last straw. Thomas Simmons worked as a real estate agent, and when the market collapsed, he lost his income.
“I wanted to be Picasso. Picasso and Joni Mitchell.” Leslye Lewis laughed. It was the 70s and the Bellevue teenager had big dreams, growing up in an ambitious family that always encouraged her to succeed.
“My grandmother taught me to color outside the lines – I thought I could do anything,” she said. So enrolling at the University of Washington to study oil painting seemed a natural step, if not exactly the most pragmatic career preparation.