It was a car accident that catapulted Gina Owens into advocacy. In 2000, Owens was working as a medical assistant and activism wasn’t on her radar, but a collision left her with disabilities that prevented her from continuing with her job. The landlords of her Central District apartment were understanding … for a time. They allowed her to pay about 75 percent of her $475 rent as she searched for new work. She survived on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families prior to earning disability payments. But she was evicted from her apartment once the backlog on her owed rent reached $1,000. With no safety net to fall back on, she was forced into homelessness for several years.

“I understood the eviction. I understood their point of view,” Owens told Seattle Weekly on Monday. Still, she said, “A lot of people fall through the cracks and lose their housing, and it shouldn’t be like that.”

So Owens took action. Over five years ago, she joined grassroots lobbying group Washington Community Action Network. She began attending rallies, lobbying in Olympia, and testifying at Seattle City Hall on behalf of low-income renters. Her diligence is finally paying off in the form of recently introduced state legislation that could make it more difficult for tenants to become evicted.

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