Bellingham housing community’s note to tenants about rent goes viral

Residents got a pre-paid postage envelope to pay their rent with a note from the community’s resident council saying they hoped it would help relieve some stress.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Paul Moore lives in the Washington Square Apartments, a subsidized housing community for seniors and the disabled in Bellingham. He's also the chair of the community’s resident council, which went viral last week over a photo of a note they placed on rent envelopes for the tenants.

"We were called 'disgraceful and the world knows it'… 'insulting,' 'tone-deaf'… those are the ones that you can use on the air," said Moore.

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In what Moore said was just a simple goodwill-gesture, they gave residents a pre-paid postage envelope to pay their rent. They included a note that said, "The stress of COVID can be made worse by the holiday season. We hope this one-time offering of a postage-paid envelope to mail your rent check will relieve some of that stress for you."

Moore said someone took a picture of the note and envelope and posted it online, where it quickly took off.

"We were frustrated, to be honest with you," he said.

The photo ended up on sites like Reddit, where it had several hundred comments before being taken down. Moore also disputed the photo on their council website.

"Now, one of the persons that wrote said we really do need a better copywriter. And that I won't argue with,” Moore joked.

He said there was no negative intention with the note, they just wanted to do something for the residents that have spent most of the pandemic isolating in their apartments, in fear of the novel coronavirus.

"I see residents that just, I really just want to give them a hug because they're there that between COVID and everything else is going on. And I can't even do that," said Moore.

The Bellingham Housing Authority, which manages the three properties Moore chairs, did not respond to a request for comment, but Moore said they’ve been helpful during this pandemic.

"There’s only so much they can do as well because they're limited by laws and budgets," he said.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Moore said funding isn’t there for the activities they normally plan for residents, leaving many of them to simply stay in their apartments.

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"A lot of our residents are very, very concerned and frightened over the entire COVID situation. But we can't even hold a resident meeting to get their input about things,” said Moore. “Very few of them have computers where that would be possible.”

Moore said the one good thing to come out of this has been some of the positive notes and offerings to help.

"We had a lady from a private Lutheran College in Minnesota who wants to donate and help fundraise," said Moore, adding, "the first Congregational Church here in Bellingham has also offered to help."

Moore said at the beginning of the pandemic, they got an anonymous donation of $14,000 worth of personal protective equipment, but that is starting to run out. Moore said he hopes more people will continue to show compassion and kindness, and not be so quick to judge.

"I would like to thank those that offered to help,” said Moore. “And actually, I'd like to thank those that took the time to write us even though it was disparaging because it alerted us to the situation gave us a chance to correct the situation. And that's very important. If we don't know, we can't fix it."