By: Chloe Wattles

In January of 2020, Seattle had one of the first known confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Due to the severity of the outbreak, Seattle quickly closed access to local businesses in efforts to protect the health of everyone, in return, small business owners suffered from significant losses in revenue.

Southeast Seattle is home to over 1,000 small businesses that impact and serve residents from all over the Puget Sound and beyond. These establishments make up the rich culture that Southeast Seattle is known for. Most of these businesses are owned by persons of color, immigrants, refugees, and women.

At HomeSight it is our belief that one way to preserve and promote economically and culturally diverse communities is to authentically represent through business development and community advocacy. Small businesses having access to the knowledge and tools needed to excel in changing markets is vital to this belief.

Preserving the fabric of our community – Small Business Support Grants Round 1

April 6, 2020
To combat the threat of financial devastation brought by COVID-19, HomeSight partnered with other financial establishments such as Lucky Seven Foundation, RVCDF, Wells Fargo, Umpqua Bank, and NeighborWorks America to create the Small Business Support Grant. Grants could be used for a wide range of business needs such as: marketing strategies, business loan costs, bookkeeping and accounting, advertising, business association membership dues, business planning, legal support resources, business tax preparation, equipment and fixtures, minor repairs, business taxes, permits and licensing fees, as well as working capital to thrive in these trying times.

Determined to quickly ease the burden brought by COVID-19, HomeSight, two weeks after announcing the grants, awarded $5,000 to 30 Southeast Seattle Small Businesses out of 250 applications.

“These funds are a bloodline for our business and moral for our determination to continue the business in this time,” says Filli Abdulkdra, owner of Amy’s Merkato restaurant.

Highlighting essential businesses

April 10, 2020
Due to most businesses, parks, and other recreation being closed or having a massive change of hours, it made it almost impossible to know what establishments were still in operation. To help promote business traffic and help the community have a destination to venture to, HomeSight, in partnership with Martin Luther King Business Association, Beacon Business Alliance, Mt. Baker Hub, Rainier Avenue Business Coalition, Columbia City Business Association, and Rainier Beach Merchants, launched a website that allows users to find essential businesses in Southeast Seattle.

Sarah Valenta, the Community & Business Development Manager at HomeSight wanted to launch the website in connection with the Small Business Support Grant, with the intent to help support the local economy.

“We are trying to respond to the needs of not only the business community, but the residents in Southeast Seattle,” says Valenta. “We want to connect those residents to the open essential businesses in an effort to support our local economy.”

The Seattle Office of Economic Development helped in this effort by funding the development of the Essential Southeast Seattle website (www.essentialseseattle.org), and having HomeSight oversee the domain.

Round 2 of grants

June 1, 2020
Providing capital to those 30 small businesses is essential to not only the local economy, but to the community as well. However, the work was not done. Out of the 250+ applicants, only 30 were able to be awarded, and because of this, HomeSight, along with partners and the selfless donations from the community, came together again to fund more applicants with the Small Business Support Grant.

From the original 250+ applicants, excluding those who had been awarded before, 20 more businesses were awarded $5,000 from the newly acquired $100,000 that was compiled by HomeSight and funding partners from Seattle Foundation, Union Bank, and Verity Credit Union.

“We are honored to be selected in this round of funding and we know that it could not have been an easy decision given the great need that is all around us,” said Hale Taihia of Aganuu Faasomoa 101 USA. “Having this funding will help keep our Seal of Biliteracy and Mental Health Counseling programs intact for the foreseeable future.”

HomeSight is happy to be able to have such a valuable impact on the community and economy. Since it is HomeSight’s mission to preserve and promote economically and culturally diverse communities, we are still actively working with funding partners and accepting donations to put toward a third round of small business grants. Darryl Smith, Executive Director at HomeSight, is committed to this mission.

“For 30 years, HomeSight has been an invested partner in the community,” says Smith. “It’s incredibly important that we support and stand with the small businesses that help the diversity of our community prosper.”

If you are considering helping with the effort to raise money for the Small Business Support Grant program to help preserve the unique and vibrant business community, donations are still actively being accepted.

Helping local organizations and programs thrive during COVID-19

Not only did COVID-19 hit small businesses, it also had a significant impact on the people in the community.

Seeing that something needed to be done to preserve the local organizations and programs that so many Southeast Seattle residents and children rely on, Faduma Ahmed, Integration Manager at HomeSight, along with Darryl Smith, Executive Director of HomeSight, began raising money to help support these local organizations and programs. This resulted in donating $28,500 to six local organizations and programs.

One of the awarded organizations was Urban Family. Their focus is providing care and food packs to families in need of essential goods and vital food basics. This organization concentrates on serving African American and Polynesian families who live in low income and underserved apartment complexes large and small in Skyway & Rainier Beach. Since the packs cost $15 each, 300 families were able to receive care and food packs with the $4,500 Urban Family received from HomeSight.

“Because of HomeSight’s generous support, we were able to support hundreds (1,243) of youth and families in need,” says Paul Patu, executive director and co-founder of Urban Family. “Targeting families who are experiencing homelessness, high CPS calls, domestic and physical abuse.”

Going Forward

With all of us not knowing when things will become familiar again, and families and communities still needing help, HomeSight and many other organizations and programs are continuing their work to raise funds for the Small Business Support Grants, and donations to local organizations and programs.

All of these organizations and programs – big or small, local or counties away – coming together for the common goal of helping the Southeast Seattle community is something that proves that hope and comradery will get us all through these trying times.

HomeSight will continue their mission to preserve and promote economically and culturally diverse communities, especially during these times, through community advocacy, and helping small businesses have access to the knowledge and tools they need to thrive in the changing market.