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Redmond residents help a family in need

From left, Kelly Scott, Stuart Miller, Hailly Miller and Denise Whitlow in Scott and Miller’s RV, which they were able to purchase after Whitlow set up a GoFundMe website to help them. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
From left, Kelly Scott, Stuart Miller, Hailly Miller and Denise Whitlow in Scott and Miller’s RV, which they were able to purchase after Whitlow set up a GoFundMe website to help them.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

Things have not been easy for Stuart Miller and Kelly Scott lately.

A few months ago, the couple had been living in Florida when they got in their car to drive across the country.

“We needed to get away from a bad situation,” Miller said.

They ended up in Washington, staying with some friends in Renton. But with a newborn baby girl who would often wake up and cry at all hours of the night, Miller said they were soon asked to leave. They weren’t able to gather their belongings before they left and so the new family of three found themselves on the streets of Renton — their car was no longer running — about a week and a half before Christmas. As they were trying to figure out their next steps, employees from Friends of Youth (FOY) found them and brought them to Redmond United Methodist Church, which was hosting the Eastside Emergency Winter Shelter (EWS) at the time.

HELP FROM THE COMMUNITY

During their stay at the shelter, Miller said a woman at the church told them about Buy Nothing Redmond, a network of three Facebook groups (separated by neighborhoods) that offer people a way to give, receive, share and lend goods and services with their neighbors.

This single piece of information has helped Miller and Scott work toward turning their life around and getting back on their feet.

Miller, who is originally from Salem, Ore., initially posted on the page, letting people know they were in need of a stroller they could attach to their daughter’s carseat. They received more than 30 offers and once they accepted one stroller, they were offered a second one to use to put their belongings in for convenience. They accepted a second stroller but shortly gave it to another family who came into EWS, had even less than them and were also in need of a stroller. Miller made sure to post a message on the Facebook page to let people know what had happened.

“We wanted to share (the stroller) with someone who needed it,” he said.

Since then, the Buy Nothing group has been a lifeline for the couple, providing them with whatever they need — from cans of baby formula for their daughter Hailly, to enough leftovers to feed them and dozens of homeless people congregated at the Redmond Library during the day.

And while providing food was helpful, the couple was still staying at EWS, which was only open from 8:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. Miller said because of the limited hours, he and his family were still out on the streets during the day and Hailly would be confined to her stroller, often under a plastic cover because of the rain. This caused them some concern regarding her development because she couldn’t come out of the stroller to play and practice rolling over and other things babies do at her age.

A HOME OF THEIR OWN

This need for their own place to live became apparent to Redmond resident Denise Whitlow, who invited the family to spend Christmas with her and her friends after meeting them through the Buy Nothing group. She learned Miller wanted to get an RV so his family would have their own place to live.

To help them get that RV, Whitlow started a GoFundMe page to collect donations (www.gofundme.com/kthbkwta).

Within a few days, the site raised enough money for them to purchase an RV in Fife for about $900. This was at the beginning of January. The crowdsourcing site is still up and accepting donations as the family still needs help.

Scott, who is from Tallahassee, Fla., said now they have a roof over their heads, a bed and bathroom of their own.

In addition, the family now has a place to put their belongings — the majority of which were donated by members of the Buy Nothing group. Prior to having the RV, Miller and Scott were not able to accept many items because they were carrying everything they owned with them.

“It’s been rough, but we got through it,” Scott said about their experiences so far.

The couple is especially grateful to have the RV because there were a few moments when they were on the street when they thought it would only be a matter of days that the state would take away their daughter. It was just a matter of when, not if, Miller said.

“My daughter has a home now,” he said through tears as the topic is still an emotional one for him.

At four months old, Hailly has come through things well.

“She is the world’s happiest baby,” Miller said.

LOOKING OUT FOR EACH OTHER

Miller, Scott and Hailly are now out of the shelter and their RV is in the back parking lot behind Overtake Christian Church, where about a dozen families are staying as they work to get back on their feet.

There are cameras monitoring the lot and police come by on a regular basis to make sure everyone is safe.

In addition, everyone looks out for everyone else.

Whitlow, who visits with the family on a regular basis, said there is a sense of community among people staying there.

Miller and Scott agreed.

People share what they can with each other, whether that is tools, the use of their car to run errands during the day, cooking food or the use of a laptop to watch TV shows. Everyone also looks out for each other, keeping an eye on others’ belongings when they are not there.

Miller said it is hard enough to be in the position they are in at the moment and to try to get through things alone “ain’t going to happen.”

“It takes a whole tribe to get a family off the street,” he said.

So in addition to sharing their belongings, Miller said the families also share information on resources and services. He said they know that just because one agency may not be able to help them, there may be someone else the agency could help.

Another way in which Miller is contributing to the small community behind the church is by starting a small garden in a plot of dirt in the lot so the people staying there in the future will have fresh produce to eat.

SOMEBODY WHO HAS BEEN THERE

Although Miller was raised to always try to help others, it wasn’t until his family’s experiences in the last few months that he has really found the motivation to do more than volunteering with the Salvation Army.

Miller now realizes how difficult it is for someone to try to get their life back together after falling on hard times.

Although things are not perfect for his family yet — he has been unable to work due to mental health issues and they are still waiting to receive his disability benefits — this has not stopped Miller from reaching out to others.

Whitlow said he is often running around town, helping other people in similar situations to find services and other help.

For Miller, his role is obvious. As someone who is working to come out from a tough situation, he said he can help reassure newly homeless parents. In addition to showing them where they can receive the services they need, he can also let them know that their children will not be taken away from them just because they have lost their home — something he would never wish upon any parent.

“There’s a real need for somebody who’s been through it,” he said.

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