Stories

A Warmer Home for Long-time Community Advocate Laura Wong Whitebear

A Family History of Community Activism Rooted in Seattle

Laura Wong-Whitebear has dedicated her life to working with Native American and indigenous communities in the greater Seattle area. She grew up in a bi-racial family and credits her mother, Mary Christian Hall Wong (Colville, Sinixt Band) for instilling in her the importance of Native identity. Her brother, Bernie Whitebear, a civil-rights leader in the Gang of Four, founded United Indian of All Tribes Foundation (UIATF), where Laura first started volunteering in the Native community in 1978. She eventually became Director of Elder's Program at UIATF, whose mission is to provide educational, cultural and social services that reconnect Indigenous people in the Puget Sound region to their heritage by strengthening their sense of belonging and significance as Native people. "It was an honor to work for the organization my brother founded," said Laura.

And Laura has never quite stopped working for community! She has taken on various capacities at community-based organizations with leadership roles from Executive Director to board member. Today, she works for the Edmonds School District as the Indian Education Program Specialist. Laura's vision is for, "All Native American/Alaska Native students to have access to the best quality education experience and be the next generation to assist and support others."

How did Ms. Wong-Whitebear get free health, safety and energy improvements made to her home?

Although Laura is not planning to leave her work in the community, she is looking forward to retirement in the next few years. She had concerns about making sure her home in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle is comfortable and safe, especially once she stops working. "I am preparing myself for retirement so in a couple of years I have less to worry about," said Laura.

A close friend of Laura's referred her to the Weatherization Program offered through the City of Seattle's Office of Housing.  

What is Weatherization?

Weatherization provides free services to improve energy efficiency, health and safety to income-qualified households. The improvements will save you money on your energy bills. The many benefits of weatherization include keeping your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It also helps keep the air in your home fresh and healthy.

Laura had insulation installed and other upgrades to improve energy efficiency of her home. She also had her oil furnace converted to an electric ductless heat pump, which also provides air conditioning in the summer.

How does the Weatherization Program work?

A Weatherization Specialist from the Office of Housing will be assigned to your home to improve its insulation, heating systems and air quality. All weatherization projects are contracted and managed by the Office of Housing to provide you with as much support as possible. Our services are completely FREE to eligible households.

The City of Seattle's Office of Housing has provided weatherization services to thousands of households for over 30 years.  

How do I apply and qualify for free weatherization services and improvements?

Laura has some advice. "My friend had a lot of work done to her home and encouraged me to apply. Don't second guess. Just make a call or send an e-mail to the Office of Housing to find out if you are eligible."

The Office of Housing provides resources for income qualified households. Call or email us today to learn more. You can also visit our website to download an application and view income guidelines. Program staff are available to answer questions and provide support. We can even help you fill out an application. Translation services are also available.