Katie Hayes

Katie Hayes

An intense, challenging, fun year: Goodbye from the housing reporter

Katie Hayes wrote about the “absurd and creatively cruel issues that struggling renters face.” But she has hope, too.

I’m a sentimental person and goodbyes are always difficult. It’s been an intense, challenging and incredibly fun year reporting on working class issues at The Daily Herald.

Unfortunately, Friday was my last day. I’m moving to St. Louis, my hometown, to be closer to my family. I miss them and the small moments that are only possible when you live close to people, like sipping a cup of coffee in my Mom’s kitchen.

I wrote a few drafts of this column, because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. My job at the Herald was to write about “working class issues” in Snohomish County, but it didn’t take long to realize that some of the most pressing are child care and housing costs.

I thought about writing about my own relationship with these issues and how it influenced the stories I wrote. I thought about listing all the minimum wage jobs I’ve had and how frustrating it is to feel like you can’t get ahead. I also thought about listing how much my rent was in cities across Western Washington. Or the number of roommates I’ve had while attempting to avoid astronomical housing prices.

My goal at the Herald was to write stories that humanize poverty. I wanted to show people’s agency and the incredible amount of determination it takes to survive. The people in my stories aren’t helpless. They’re navigating a broken system.

Some of my most memorable stories were the ones that illustrated some of the absurd and creatively cruel issues that struggling renters face, like tenants at the Grand Apartments in Everett who said their corporate landlord bullied them out of the building.

Or the public agency that displaced Lynnwood tenants, then gave some $2,000 in exchange for signing nondisclosure agreements. The tenants signed legally binding documents that they wouldn’t sue or speak about the government agency. Ironically, I found those agreements through a public records request.

The people in my stories showed incredible courage. They informed and educated their community by sharing some of the most traumatic events in their life. In some cases, it led to change.

Melinda Parke spoke about the lack of emergency housing, while Snohomish County’s homeless families wait in line for a permanent solution. Parke is still on the wait list for permanent housing, but she received more than $4,000 in community donations and a nonprofit paid for six days at a motel after the Herald’s story.

Alexandra Nyfors spoke about her medical bills, after the state attorney general alleged Providence wasn’t providing financial assistance to low-income patients. Nyfors should have qualified, but received a bill anyway. After the Herald’s story, Nyfors received an email from Providence. They canceled her medical debt and said they would refund what she already paid.

Steve Teixeira, a tenant at the Grand Apartments, is starting an Everett Tenants Union to advocate for more aggressive code enforcement and harsher penalties.

George and Pam Hurst helped displaced Lynnwood tenants find housing. In some cases, they spent their own money to help people move.

The stories we tell ourselves matter. The stories we tell our community matter, too. I think it’s important to show how resilient people are and write about the courageous things they do.

I find it encouraging to see that the Snohomish County Council, the City of Everett and the housing authorities are taking steps to address the affordable housing crisis.

The County Council recently eased zoning restrictions, opening the door for more townhomes and duplexes. The Everett Housing Authority recently acquired 381 apartments, preventing another buyer from drastically raising rent prices.

Good things are happening in Snohomish County, but we can do more, as citizens, to push for policies that protect people in the community.

The decisions local politicians make directly affect the people in my stories. The politicians we elect decide if a city gets more housing. They also decide how and where to spend our money. If you want to protect people in your community, speak up — ask questions, email your councilmembers and read statements at public meetings.

You are taxpayers in this community and you have a right to know how governments are spending your money. You also have a right to voice your opinion on those decisions. On the local level, it only takes a handful of really loud people to influence policy.

Frankly, I would take this job with me if I could, but local journalism requires local reporters. I look forward to reading about what happens next in Snohomish County, though, and will continue subscribing to the Herald. If you can afford to subscribe to the Herald, or support the next Report for America corps member’s work, you should, too.

Katie Hayes: katie.hayes@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @misskatiehayes.

Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Sept. 30, 2020. Boeing said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, that it took more than 200 net orders for passenger airplanes in December and finished 2022 with its best year since 2018, which was before two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max jet and a pandemic that choked off demand for new planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing’s $3.9B cash burn adds urgency to revival plan

Boeing’s first three months of the year have been overshadowed by the fallout from a near-catastrophic incident in January.

Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
Wrong-way driver accused of aggravated murder of Lynnwood woman, 83

The Kenmore man, 37, fled police, crashed into a GMC Yukon and killed Trudy Slanger on Highway 525, according to court papers.

A voter turns in a ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
On fourth try, Arlington Heights voters overwhelmingly pass fire levy

Meanwhile, in another ballot that gave North County voters deja vu, Lakewood voters appeared to pass two levies for school funding.

Judge Whitney Rivera, who begins her appointment to Snohomish County Superior Court in May, stands in the Edmonds Municipal Court on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge thought her clerk ‘needed more challenge’; now, she’s her successor

Whitney Rivera will be the first judge of Pacific Islander descent to serve on the Snohomish County Superior Court bench.

In this Jan. 4, 2019 photo, workers and other officials gather outside the Sky Valley Education Center school in Monroe, Wash., before going inside to collect samples for testing. The samples were tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as well as dioxins and furans. A lawsuit filed on behalf of several families and teachers claims that officials failed to adequately respond to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judge halves $784M for women exposed to Monsanto chemicals at Monroe school

Monsanto lawyers argued “arbitrary and excessive” damages in the Sky Valley Education Center case “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

Officers respond to a ferry traffic disturbance Tuesday after a woman in a motorhome threatened to drive off the dock, authorities said. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Police Department)
Everett woman disrupts ferry, threatens to drive motorhome into water

Police arrested the woman at the Mukilteo ferry terminal Tuesday morning after using pepper-ball rounds to get her out.

Man gets 75 years for terrorizing exes in Bothell, Mukilteo

In 2021, Joseph Sims broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home in Bothell and assaulted her. He went on a crime spree from there.

Allan and Frances Peterson, a woodworker and artist respectively, stand in the door of the old horse stable they turned into Milkwood on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Old horse stall in Index is mini art gallery in the boonies

Frances and Allan Peterson showcase their art. And where else you can buy a souvenir Index pillow or dish towel?

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.