Finding Happiness in Helping Others
Life has come full circle for Sammie Wright, whose life today is dramatically different than just 10 short years ago. The road wasn’t always easy, but Sammie draws strength from her past and uses her experience to relate to others as a Housing Program Specialist II with Alaska Housing.
“Because I have walked in their shoes, I truly understand the challenges, setbacks, and obstacles that can sometimes feel overwhelming,” Sammie says.
Growing Through Adversity
Sammie dropped out of high school in the 10th grade at just 15 years old. Life was hard as a teenager without a support system and dotted with trauma. She soon found herself a young single mother with two kids. In 2010, Sammie decided to walk away from a relationship and a successful co-owned automotive business. She left with nothing but was determined to start over.
Times were tough and she struggled to make ends meet. When her son started preschool, his teacher told her about AHFC’s public housing options and its Jumpstart program, which supports families who wish to better their employment opportunities and become financially independent.
“Making the choice to apply for public housing was hard. Being vulnerable is hard.”
-Sammie Wright, AHFC Housing Program Specialist ll
Changing Her Life's Trajectory
In 2014, she was approved for an AHFC Housing Choice Voucher. Knowing this was a chance for her to change the trajectory of her life, she went all in.
The Housing Choice Voucher is designed to assist eligible low-income Alaskans in renting privately owned units. Participants pay approximately 30% of their adjusted gross income to a landlord for rent, with the remainder of the rent paid by AHFC directly to the property owner or management firm.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
Sammie participated in AHFC’s Housing Choice Voucher program for three years and the experience presented opportunities she had not previously imagined.
While it was hard to accept help, she knew public housing could make a difference in her family’s lives.
There were a lot of big decisions taking place back then but none was bigger than completing her education, which she was able to pursue thanks to scholarships available through AHFC’s Jumpstart.
“I decided that I needed to set an example for my kids and went back to high school – at 28. I couldn’t ask them to do something I didn’t do, nor could I expect them to push themselves to have aspirations. I wanted to inspire them so I did the work and completed my degree at the Adult Learning Center.”
- Sammie Wright
A New Beginning
Wright had been working for a real estate company for a few years when a job opportunity presented itself with AHFC. In 2018, she joined the team as a Housing Program Specialist I. It would be an opportunity to give back and help people – just like she had been helped.
“I knew that through my own life experiences I could make a difference and uniquely understand the circumstances of others,” Sammie says. “When I say, ‘I understand, I’ve been where you are,’ it’s actually true.”
A New Life
As a Housing Program Specialist II, Sammie is now one of the people responsible for interviewing applicants for AHFC’s Housing Choice Vouchers.
One of the most rewarding aspects of her job is hearing people’s stories and being able to tell them they are eligible for a Housing Choice Voucher.
“It is literally the best feeling in the world.”
Experiences Provide Hope
On the flip side, one of the hardest parts of her job is seeing people she grew up with come in who are in a really bad position. Knowing they are homeless and have been on the streets for a while can be heart-wrenching. But her own experiences give her hope.
“It really hits home because I was that person and I know first-hand there is a future of possibilities ahead.”
A New Outlook
Now a case manager, she gets to see an entirely new side of the process and works with clients as they take full advantage of the program. Seeing people choose to make lifestyle changes and knowing she is able to play a small part in making their life better makes her heart happy.
And that full-circle thing? Sammie’s office is located next to Michael Ecker – her former Jumpstart case manager who pushed her to do better, believed in her, and helped change her life.
A Sunny Future
Now a mom of three, Sammie purchased a home in Wasilla in 2019. She labels herself as a free spirit, and says the struggles in her life have taught her to look at things with a more open mind and live in the moment.
“I feed off the happiness of others and that brings me incredible joy,” she says. “It is a blessing.”
We recognize that Sammie’s story is exceptional and some Alaskans may be in need of safe, quality, affordable housing. If you are facing homelessness or are in need of resources, we encourage you to contact Alaska 2-1-1. This free, confidential resource can help you to locate assistance in your home community. Dial 2-1-1 or 1-800-478-2221 or visit alaska211.org.