I am VOA.
“I could never imagine what some of my clients are going through. I just want to help.”
Born and raised in Everett by a Bellevue Fire Chief father and police Evidence Technician mother, Abby Johansson grew up hearing about the dark and desperate side of life. Their jobs, she says, are likely the reason her parents gave back to the community. They showed compassion through volunteer work and donating Christmas gifts, and they expected the whole family to join in to help build character and learn selflessness. Abby says of her sons, age 12, 11, and 4, “Now, I am passing on the tradition of giving to them.”
In 2015, Abby worked as a property manager for HNN Properties, which provides affordable housing. After four years, she quit to work in Seattle for a for-profit company but found the work daunting and disheartening. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced a layoff, she used the time to decide what move to make next. Remembering that she once used VOA for her HNN tenants, she applied to be a Homelessness Prevention Navigator, a position she has held since September 2020.
Though Abby still works part-time as a property manager in Kenmore to help fund her college education – majoring in Criminal Justice – VOA is her full-time job. “Eviction used to be the go-to recourse for nonpayment of rent. But VOA has opened my mind to see what can be fixed and to advocate for alternative solutions. Without VOA there would be such a gap between crisis and funding. It connects the puzzle.”
Today, Abby’s days are spent balancing up to 150 cases at one time and working as quickly as possible to secure funding for rent, connecting her clients with employment, and “...helping to break the cycle of helplessness. My goal is to find out if this issue is chronic, or what has led up to this, so I can leave them in a good place, whether it’s them standing on their feet or knowing they can call me back for support if they need it. I want them confident and secure when I close my case.”
Abby Johansson is a Homelessness Prevention Navigator and works in the new Housing Services division of VOAWW. Her story is featured as part of the #IAmVOA campaign.