Brettler Family Place Will Not be Defined by One Incident

by Ned Delmore | Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul of Seattle|King County

Brettler Family Place is a small city, a miniature League of Nations of sorts, and a rich mix of many cultures. It is a plurality of beliefs that St. Vincent de Paul of Seattle King County has come to know and respect.

For the past three and a half years our St. Vincent de Paul volunteers, my wife and I included, have been making hundreds of home visits to our neighbors at Brettler on Sandpoint Way. We are invited into their sacred space to be in relationship with them and their families.

The June police shooting was horrific and devastating as the residents continue to deal with the waves of anguish that pour over their community. Yet a fierceness remains in the soul of these residents as they gather their second wind and move forward.

Over the past several months following the shooting, they have had much lodged in their hearts to share as we listen and respond to their varying needs from rental, utility and food assistance, to signs of depression, trauma, and fears of safety for their children and themselves. The people of Brettler know and trust St. Vincent de Paul, and often it is as simple as making ourselves open and available, affirming and empowering face to face, igniting the spirit of engagement.

Let me for a moment take you into the Brettler community through the eyes of several mothers we have come to be in relationship with as they tell their story and express their grief and joys with conviction.

Below are the words of several residents of Brettler Family Place:

“Yes there is a terrible weight we are all carrying from this incident but way before it occurred we were and still are a loving community that looks after each other. We come together as families and share our food and lives as we watch our children play freely on the playground. We all have strong family traditions and beliefs expressing our love to one another regularly. Many of us work several jobs contributing to our society and our children are graduating from high school and college.”

“Unfortunately, the average citizen may presume we are nothing but a housing project. We are a community filled with life and joys and sorrows like everyone else. Our children want to live and breathe as our Creator intended, not just survive.”

We, as human beings, have a tendency to devalue each other. One incident can distort our perceptions and set us on a path of confirmation bias in support of our own beliefs. We can all judge quickly and miss the truth (as my wife frequently reminds me).

The folks at Brettler are permanent residents; this is their turf, this is their home. What we have witnessed are many individuals who have picked themselves up, have their hands on the rungs of the social ladder and are climbing out of their predicaments.
They have legitimate concerns regarding their safety as they wait for fear to pass. Some are in the fight for their lives to regain their dignity and yet they remain good and decent human beings that hunger for the same dreams and hopes that we seek for all of our families. There exists a deep triumphant spirit within that will not be extinguished. These parents have their hearts tenderly wrapped around their children.

My wife, myself, and other fellow volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul love to do home visits at Brettler. It is a radiant moment to be in the midst of this community as we admire the connectivity within as they cradle each other against the odds and invite us into their homes.

We are humbled by the life experiences of our Brettler neighbors and offer to our city a small window of light into the bright lives of our fellow citizens on Sandpoint Way.