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From homelessness to building transitional housing

June 7, 2021

Pallet employee Alex knows firsthand why our shelter villages are a crucial lifeline for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.


Alex is a manufacturing specialist at Pallet.

Alex is a manufacturing specialist at Pallet.

Pallet employee Alex knows firsthand why our shelter villages are a crucial lifeline for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. For about a year, he lived in a tent in the woods with his girlfriend. There are countless challenges to living outside, and Alex is thankful those days are behind him. He's worked at Pallet as a manufacturing specialist for a year, lives in an apartment, and is in recovery.

"I just got my driver's license back. I got my car. I became a Costco member. All things two years ago I never thought I'd do. Building my credit back," Alex explained. "I have a great job. I love what I do here. I love providing shelter for people. I love the people I work with."

Alex said being homeless was a stressful and horrible time in his life. He had to stay warm, worried about other people stealing items from his tent, and tried to avoid being seen going into the woods for fear of someone reporting him to the police. On one occasion, his tent collapsed under the weight of snow while sleeping, soaking everything inside. It was a situation he described as miserable. In another incident he woke up to the tent engulfed in flames in another instance because a propane heater caught fire. Thankfully, he wasn't injured.

His substance use disorder compounded the difficulty of living outside. It was a cycle that began as a teenager and lasted for 15 years. Nevertheless, he was able to work steadily until the year before he began recovery. Alex was tired of barely surviving when he heard about the Snohomish County Diversion Center. The program is for people experiencing homelessness who have substance use disorder and other behavioral health issues. Instead of being incarcerated they have access to treatment.

“Now that I've got some clean time. Today I can easily make the choice not to do it [use substances]," Alex said. "It was a long rough road that took away every good thing I ever had. And it ended up to where it was either going to be jail, dead, or change my life. I made the right choice."

Alex has been in recovery for two years. He's also enrolled in the Therapeutic Alternatives to Prosecution (TAP) program, an alternative to prosecution for adults with substance use or mental health problems contributing to their involvement in the criminal justice system. He's completed 100 hours of community service, paid off fines, and checks in with a counselor. Once he completes the program, three pending felonies will be dismissed.

Alex applied for a job with Pallet because he needed a second chance. His criminal record didn't disqualify him, and he joins many others at the company with a similar background who now make living wages with full benefits, such as healthcare and 401k savings plans.

"Being around other people in recovery is huge. It's people that have gone through what I've gone through," Alex said. "I pray every day that I don't ever go back. My life today is so much better. The things that I go through today. The stress I go through is nowhere near — nowhere near what I used to go through."

When Alex isn't building prefabricated shelters on Pallet's factory floor, he's spending quality time with his girlfriend and children.

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