Tonya Hennen was selected to receive a 2021 Real Community Hero because of all she does to promote affordable housing through her work with the CO-HO Team of Windermere Realty and for the outstanding work she does as an advocate for affordable housing at the local and state levels.
Michele Thomas from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance who has worked closely with Tonya on housing equity/advocacy issues, tells us that Tonya is one of the smartest and most personally dedicated advocates she's ever worked with. Michelle told us: "Tonya brings her tenacity and desire for change to every forum in her life and is extremely effective. On several occasions, I've had lawmakers comment to me about "this incredible realtor" that they met with who cared a lot about affordable housing and homelessness. They were impressed by her perspectives and by her passion, as I continue to be each year I get the luck of working with her."
When she heard about this award, Tonya immediately thought of the many people in our community who do so much service with little or no recognition. She’s already enjoying the prospect of nominating somebody for next year’s award. Congratulations Tonya!
John Terranova was honored to be recognized as a 2021 Real Community Hero. John is a long-time volunteer for the Men’s Homeless Shelter at our church, St. Michael’s Catholic Church, here in Olympia. For over 10 years, John made a point of doing overnight shelter duty on Christmas Eve with his wife and kids. John shared that he has a number of wonderful memories from Christmas Eve shelter. John also worked on staff for the church for a few years, where the biggest part of his job was running the Men’s Homeless Shelter. During those years he got to know some of the regular shelter guests quite well. John tells us that a couple of them would lament to him about how they can’t find a room for rent anymore in their price range, like they used to be able to.
After John left his position at the church he would often think about the shelter and the guys and the difficult time they have finding housing to rent. He decided he wanted to help these guys, or others like them. Eventually, he found and bought a house and moved four people into the house who had been homeless. He charged a rent that they could afford and do what he could to try to help their tenancy be relatively easy and successful.
More recently, along with a friend John bought another piece of property in Olympia. He hopes to build 2 or 3 more low-income rental homes for transitioning a few more people from homelessness to housing. John deserves to be recognized for his ongoing commitment to providing homes to those who struggle most to find and retain a home that they can afford. He is a Real Community Hero!
We are honored to recognize Hel Dastvan as a 2021 Real Community Hero.
Hel Dastvan is a Supportive Housing Case Manager and a Certified Peer Counselor with Interfaith Works Homeless Services. Hel has been working in homeless services in Thurston County for three years and were brought to this work because of their lived experience and their desire for systemic healing and change. Hel has spent a majority of that time as an outreach case manager, going to various encampments in Lacey and Olympia and bringing supplies, replacing IDs, connecting folks to housing resources, and advocating for our vulnerable community members. Since the pandemic, Hel has worked with over 200 participants, replacing 61 IDs, obtaining 89 stimulus checks, and delivering hundreds of bags of groceries, survival supplies and, lifesaving naloxone.
Hel is also a member of the county´s Racial Equity VI Research team which took on the task of creating a brand new vulnerability assessment tool for all homeless individuals enrolling in coordinated entry in Thurston county. Hel was part of the small edit team, composed of peer support workers with diverse backgrounds and lived experience, that spent many hours designing the tool to be as effective and trauma informed as possible. This new assessment is a crucial piece of offering racially competent services and is currently being implemented as the county's new vulnerability assessment tool.
A graduate of The Evergreen State College, Hel has lived in Thurston county for almost 8 years. They received their Dual degree in Organic Chemistry and Social Work in 2016. Hel plans on pursuing their LCSW to better serve their community. As someone with multiple marginalized identities and lived experience, Hel understands the incredible need for health providers that represent the diverse populations they serve.