So you’ve decided to serve in AmeriCorps, now what? Our best word of advice: plan, plan and plan some more!
Know the area you want to serve in
- Are there plenty of affordable housing options?
- What is the average cost to rent a place to live? Will you need to put down a deposit?
- What about food? Are there lots of farmers markets and co-ops in the area, or just one grocery store in town?
- How far will you need to travel between home and the service site every day?
- What kind of local entertainment options are there?
- Will there be any other WSC members nearby that you can connect with?
Planning on renting? Rent fees vary widely from one area of the state to the next, so make sure you know how much it will cost to live in the area you want to serve in, before you apply!
- Apartment Finder
- Bellwether Housing
- Housing Search NW
- Imagine Housing (East King County)
- Washington Low Income Housing Alliance
Many local housing authorities have apartment complexes, and offer lower rent costs for low-income individuals. Contact the one for the county you plan on serving in to see if they have availability. Be prepared for wait lists!
Will you be serving in King County? Check out the Seattle AmeriCorps Collaborative Facebook group for housing leads from current AmeriCorps members in the area.
Depending on the area in which you’re serving, public transportation options can vary. See below for those most commonly used.
- Purchase an ORCA card or Smart card – you can pre-load funds for individual trips or a monthly pass (note: not all transit systems accept these cards; confirm in advance).
Bus transit system
- Click here to view route maps and schedules by county and major city.
- Sound Transit also has the “ST Express” bus routes serving Pierce, King and Snohomish counties.
Trains and light rail
- The Sounder train runs between Pierce and Snohomish counties, and is a popular mode of transportation between the major cities of Tacoma, Seattle and Everett.
- Link light rail lines run through downtown Tacoma and between downtown Seattle and SeaTac airport.
- The Amtrak Cascades line runs from Vancouver B.C. to Eugene, OR with 16 stops in between, including major cities like Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Portland (and it’s not as expensive as you might think).
Living with the S-word: The Stipend
It’s not easy making a dollar stretch. Here’s where a budget and some creative thinking will become your best friends.
- Estimate your potential cost of living by searching for specific cities on Numbeo.
- Use free mobile budgeting apps like Mint.com to keep track of income and expenses, or Microsoft’s Excel budget templates.
Foraging for food
- Be prepared to sign up for SNAP (known as “Basic Food” in Washington) as soon as you start service, and have your site staff fill out the income verification letter you may need to present to DSHS. You can apply online or at a local Community Services Office. If you have questions about DSHS programs, you can read their FAQ or call 1-877-501-2233.
- Know where the local farmers market is and if it offers a SNAP-matching program (in Seattle, it’s called Fresh Bucks).
- Find local food banks and co-ops.
- Scour online cookbooks and food blogs written especially for those on a tight budget.
More tips from alums
- Many places that require a membership fee (like the YMCA) will offer a discounted rate for AmeriCorps members – just ask!
- If you’re eligible for SNAP, you’re probably eligible for a free cell phone through Assurance Wireless.
- Mark your calendar for free entrance days at local state and national parks.
- Check out free entrance days to local museums (there are almost 300 of them in Washington).
- Travel to British Columbia from Port Angeles by ferry for free on your birthday!
- Look for sales at Value Village on national holidays, and Goodwill’s Fan Fridays.
- Are you on Facebook? Check out the “Buy, Sell, Free, Trade” group for the county you’re living in.
Service Year Alliance also has tips on surviving a service year:
The information on this page is provided as a courtesy, only. The Washington Service Corps has not vetted and cannot vouch for services offered and/or facilitated by other organizations or individuals listed on this page. We strongly encourage you to do your own thorough research.