PORT HADLOCK — Not so long ago, the future loomed dark for single father Tim Ufford.
He and his teenage son had nowhere to sleep.
Ufford, a former ironworker, was disabled years ago in a terrible job-site accident. His shoulder shattered like a hand grenade.
He underwent a series of surgeries.
Returning to work was not an option.
In 2019, Ufford lost some members of his family; then he lost his housing.
He’d reached a low point in his life.
Then he met with Allison Arthur, senior housing manager at the Olympic Community Action Programs, or OlyCAP.
The agency administers the Peninsula Home Fund, a safety net woven together by contributors across Clallam and Jefferson counties.
With small grants and vouchers — totaling no more than $350 per year — the Home Fund helps single people, couples and families in need with car repairs or bus passes so they can get to work, gift cards so they can buy groceries and, as in Ufford’s case, help in starting anew.
First a Home Fund grant helped Ufford move his belongings into storage. Then another small sum covered the application fee for a new two-bedroom apartment.
He’s still floored by the turn of events.
“I wasn’t expecting anything like this to come down,” Ufford said.
There was, however, a gap between Ufford’s loss of housing and the late-December move to the new place.
Bayside Housing & Services, at the Old Alcohol Plant in Port Hadlock, welcomed him, as it has done for many otherwise homeless men and women on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Since its opening in 2016, Bayside has provided rooms, meals and, Ufford said, moral support in its high-rise lodge overlooking Hadlock Bay.
Without this place, “I would have been sleeping in a tent.”
The nonprofit Bayside has 16 rooms for tenants, all of which are full; there’s a waiting list and details about eligibility at BaysideHousing.org. The Old Alcohol Plant Inn next door is a partner, so during the winter months when agencies call with emergencies, “we open up hotel rooms,” said housing services manager Gretchen Wambach.
Wambach is one of the people who’ve shown Ufford a new outlook on the world.
“He’s a good guy; a dedicated dad,” she said. Like others who come to live at Bayside, he needed a hand out of a rough spot in the road.
Ufford, 54, grew up in an unhappy household in Yakima, and went hitchhiking around the United States when he was still a kid. The traumas of his youth followed him, causing vicious anxiety attacks. He blamed himself for not getting his life together, and the attacks worsened.
But this past year, he began to see things differently.
“I’ve met a lot of good, caring people who actually give a damn,” Ufford said.
These include Wambach, OlyCAP’s Arthur, Old Alcohol Plant owner Gary Keister, Bayside board member Susan Keister, Port Hadlock Community United Methodist Church pastor Scott Rosekrans, and his son’s jiu-jitsu coach Jon-Craig Fjellman.
Fjellman has a big heart, Ufford said, and he’s helped the teen develop as an athlete and as a man.
His son, a student at Port Townsend High School, has gotten into his share of troubles. He’s working on turning things around, Ufford said.
For Ufford, 2020 brings a chance to realize two simple, essential tasks: “getting settled into my place, and being a positive influence on my boy.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.