Born without a home in Seattle | KUOW News and Information

Born without a home in Seattle

Oct 13, 2017

Tiffany Hicks rode a Greyhound bus for four and a half days to get to Seattle. Her brother had recently moved here and said there were jobs. 

So Hicks left Lithia Springs, Georgia, alone to seek something better for her two children. 

"I had lost a job, lost a car, lost an apartment, and had to move in with my mom," said Hicks, 33.

"It was just time to do something different because I was tired of that happening. We needed somewhere where we could start over that would actually make a difference."

But the Seattle reality was daunting - sleeping on the floor at Angeline's Center for Women.

"That first night, I cried. I really cried. I've never been in a place like that. I've never slept on the floor like that," she said.

"I didn't cry because I was scared, I cried because I knew this was going to be something I've never been through before." 

A couple of months later, her partner Carl Lindley arrived, followed by Matthew, 9, and Mariah, 7. 

Mariah Hicks, 7, looks out of the window of her family's room at Mary's Place in June, 2017.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The family is among many who have experienced homelessness in Seattle.

During the 2017 Seattle and King County Point-In-Time count, 11,643 people were found to be living without a home in the city.

"I came in with a duffel bag and that's it, you know, everything I owned was in that duffel bag."

Mariah Hicks, 7, in front of a chalk drawing depicting downtown Seattle in a common area at Mary's Place, on Monday, June 26, 2017, in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Tiffany's partner Carl was staying at the Salvation Army shelter downtown. Eventually, the family was able to get an apartment in Kent in August of 2015.

They stayed there until the next July, when their rent was raised from $1,275 a month to $1,875 a month.

"They gave us a week to pay for it," Tiffany said. "We didn't have that, so we had to leave."

From left, Matthew, Mariah and Tiffany Hicks laugh as they take selfies in their room at Mary's Place on Monday, June 26, 2017, in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The family wound up without a home again and found a room at Mary's Place, a family shelter, where they could all stay together in the same room, in August 2016.  

"I took it as a transition to something else. Like, 'Okay Tiffany, you can stay here as long as you need to, but don't stay here. Don't get comfortable. Don't get complacent. Don't expect anything and don't talk to too many people.

"Some people are here and they've been here for years," Tiffany said. "I didn't want to get caught up in that."

During their time at Mary's Place, the kids attended Lowell Elementary school and Tiffany worked at the Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle and King County.

Tiffany Hicks, right, sits on her bed, as Mariah Hicks, 7, sits in the window of their room at Mary's Place, as luxury apartments are constructed outside the window, on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

"You're already in a sad situation because you have to humble yourself to go to a shelter, anyway," Tiffany said.

"You already feel less than. You feel less than a person to have to sit in line and wait for someone to serve you when you're grown."

"There were a couple times where I felt like I couldn't handle it, where I lost it.

"My son would tell me all the time, 'It's okay mom, we'll get past this. It's just temporary. God's got better for us."

In January, Tiffany found out that she was pregnant with her third child, a boy. She knew the clock was ticking and felt even more pressure to find a place to live before the baby arrived in September.

"I was more worried about not having the stuff I needed for him when he got here," Tiffany said. "That's what was stressful."

Tiffany Hicks, center, with her kids Mariah, left, and Matthew, right, during a doctor's appointment on Monday, August 14, 2017, at Swedish OB/GYN Specialists on Madison St., in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Tiffany and Carl worked hard to ensure that Matthew and Mariah still had experiences where they could just be kids. They often went to the park or to the movies to get their minds off of their current living situation. 

"We used to make it so they didn't have enough time to really think about the sadness of where we stayed at," Tiffany said. "We just kept busy, kept moving, and kept pressing toward where we wanted to go."

"We told them it's a learning experience. It didn't change who they are as people, they're just kids."

"I wanted them to stay as kids. I didn't want them to come out changed."
Mariah Hicks, 7, plays in the water during her birthday party on Saturday, July 1, 2017, at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park in Renton, Washington.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Mariah said living at Mary's Place was hard. She said she found it difficult to concentrate on her homework because it was always loud. She also had trouble dealing with questions from other kids at school. 

"I was trying to focus and everyone in my class is just asking me questions, like 'Hey Mariah, how come you take a taxi cab after school?"

"I don't like having to answer questions like that."

Tiffany Hicks is induced early on Monday, August 28, 2017, because of problems with gestational hypertension, at Swedish First Hill Birth Center on Broadway St., in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Tiffany was induced at 9 p.m. on Monday, August 28, 2017, at Swedish First Hill Birth Center in Seattle, roughly a week before her due date. She was induced early because of problems with gestational hypertension.

They parked their truck in the parking garage at the hospital when they arrived and were stressed when they learned they would have to pay when they left. It was roughly $15 a day for patients and they didn't know how many days they'd be there.

Both Tiffany and Carl's mothers sent money through Western Union from Georgia to pay for their parking stay. On their way out, the hospital ended up giving them a voucher to cover the cost. 

Siblings Matthew, 9, right, and Mariah Hicks, 7, sleep on a cot on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, at Swedish First Hill Birth Center on Broadway St., in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Tiffany, her partner, Carl, her brother Donald, and children Matthew and Mariah all spent the night in the hospital room at Swedish First Hill Birth Center.

Matthew and Mariah shared a cot while Carl and Donald slept in chairs.

Tiffany Hicks and Mariah Hicks, 7, admire the newest addition to their family, Elijah Dayshawn Lindley, on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, at Swedish First Hill Birth Center in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The next day, around 5:30 p.m., Elijah Dayshawn Lindley was born. He was perfectly healthy and weighed 6 pounds, 9.4 ounces.

Carl Lindley holds his newborn son, Elijah Dayshawn Lindley, on Thursday, August 31, 2017, at Swedish First Hill Birth Center in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
 
Matthew Hicks, 9, and Mariah Hicks, 7, look at their new brother, Elijah Dayshawn Lindley, as he is placed under a warming lamp on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, at Swedish First Hill Birthing Center in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The family left the hospital on Thursday, August 31 and went back to their room at Mary's Place with their new addition to the family. 

Tiffany Hicks carries her newborn son, Elijah, as she leaves Swedish First Hill Birth Center on Thursday, August 31, 2017, in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Once they were back at Mary's Place, they went back and fourth about a potential new apartment in Auburn with their caseworkers and a landlord. 

"Where are we going to be? What's going to change for us? What's not going to change for us? It was all just hanging on a string."

"I wanted it to be finalized. Every week we would meet with them and they would tell us something different," Tiffany said.

Tiffany Hicks changes her newborn son Elijah's diaper on Sunday, September 3, 2017, in their room at Mary's Place in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Tiffany Hicks feeds her son Elijah on Sunday, September 3, 2017, in their room at Mary's Place in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Sixteen days after leaving the hospital, the family moved into a new apartment in Auburn.

Tiffany signed the lease for a three bedroom apartment around 8 p.m. on Friday, September, 15  in the parking lot of the Seattle Chinese Alliance Church, where she met the new landlord.

Tiffany Hicks signs a lease for a three bedroom apartment in Auburn in the parking lot of Seattle Chinese Alliance Church on Friday, September 15, 2017, in Beacon Hill.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Tiffany Hicks holds her son Elijah after arriving at their new apartment for the first time, on Friday, September 15, 2017, in Auburn.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

They unlocked the door to their new apartment after 10 p.m. Everyone was tired.  Immediately, Carl and Matthew unloaded their belongings from the car. 

"I feel relieved. I feel like, thank god, we're finally here."

"Now it's just keeping it. Once you get a place it's the means to keep it. It just changes from one stress to another," Tiffany said. 

"I don't want to end back up there. I don't want to lose where I'm at. I don't want to go through all that again."

Matthew and Mariah Hicks read together in the new bedroom that they share on Saturday, September 16, 2017, in Auburn.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
Matthew Hicks, 9, and Mariah Hicks, 7, walk into a field adjacent to their new apartment to play soccer, on Saturday, September 16, 2017, in Auburn.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer