I was born in 1952 at King County Hospital (now Harborview), attended Bailey Gatzert elementary and graduated from Pacific High School. My girlfriend from school and I went to the World’s Fair in 1962. We saved up every cent we could to ride the dime shuttle to the Seattle Center. Can you believe the bus was just ten cents?!
My mom drank a lot back then. She had a hard life as a single mother. We lived downtown, what they call the International District now, above a Filipino restaurant. My mom used to make earrings, shawls, and moccasins to sell at local Pow Wow’s, but she never taught me the beading from our tribe, the Gros Ventre Tribe of Montana.
After I graduated from Pacific High School, I got a job making beds and cleaning bathrooms for a local hotel. I held onto that job through two partners, four pregnancies, and one colicky baby. As my kids got older, I picked up another part-time job to make ends meet. It was important for me to be able to give my kids a better life than I grew up with, but I’m not sure I was able to.
In 2010, I had my first stroke. It wasn’t that bad, but it was hard to get back into my normal daily work and home life routine. In 2015, I had a second stroke that I’m still recovering from. This time I had to learn how to walk and talk again. It was really hard for my youngest daughter because I not only lost my job but our home.
We only felt safe and comfortable with accessing homeless services exclusively for women. In 2016, we started staying in the overnight women’s shelter located in the basement of University Lutheran Church. It’s hard because I can’t get up and down off the mats on the floor, so I sit up all night.
We heard about Elizabeth Gregory Home’s Day Center because it’s just upstairs from the night shelter. Thanks to EGH, I have access to a comfortable recliner so I can get some sleep during the day. We all take care of each other at EGH. Because it’s hard for me to walk and keep my balance, the other ladies help me do my laundry and make sure I get a seat at the table for breakfast.
Michele, who’s an EGH staff member, immediately started helping me find housing. I found out last November that I had been approved for housing. What I have learned since then is that the system moves very slowly. Even when you have been approved for housing, you still need to be patient and wait until the right unit opens up before you can get out of the shelter system. For example, I need a place with an elevator because I can’t walk up and down the stairs anymore. My dream is to have my own place where all my children can visit me and I can spend more time with my two grandbabies.
I honestly don’t know where I would be today without Elizabeth Gregory Home. I truly believe that my dream will come true and I’ll soon have a place to call home again. EGH is my lifeline.
Update: Billie moved in with one of her daughters and enjoys spending time with her grandchildren.