Weld Seattle: Empowering Returning Citizens

"The success of a community is not measured by how much it has, but by how much it gives." Unknown 



Organization Overview

Weld Seattle, a non-profit organization based in Seattle, is the most recent beneficiary of the EXP Technical's commitment to community enrichment. 

Weld's mission is to equip system-impacted individuals with housing, employment, and resources conducive to recovery and successful reintegration back into society.

It’s a daunting task.

Kareem Brantley, Weld’s Director of Strategic Operations stresses the magnitude of the challenges that the organization addresses. “We intersect with a number of systemic problems in our society—systemic racism, mass incarceration, poor funding of education, economic inequality. We come across language challenges, generational trauma, cultures of violence.”

So what does successful reintegration look like for Weld participants?

“It can be family re-unification. It can be having a job that you couldn’t hold before. It could be having a place to stay. It could be having life skills training.”

The road to recovery may require replacing counterproductive habits with new routines. “Sometimes we build recreation. Think about re-creation—this ability to have good fun,” Brantley explained.

Weld’s track record is impressive! Since its launch, Weld has served over 1,000 system-impacted people reentering the community from incarceration, homelessness, and/or addiction. Fewer than 4% of Weld members have been rearrested.

Weld stories of recovery and re-creation.

"For Us, By Us!"

Weld staff members know the road to recovery and reintegration. “We are peer led. We are run by people like us. FUBU—'for us, by us,’ not ‘about us, without us,’”

A peer-led approach is a differentiator. “We teach these things in a way that frankly just isn’t out there. We’re able to give one-on-one service with people who have walked the walk.”

The Weld resource center offers an important alternative to other public services like those found at a public library. “The public library is fantastic, but there is only so high they can go. [At Weld] you don’t have a librarian peeking over your shoulder. We are able to go broader and deeper.”

By providing vital peer-led support Weld helps individuals build better lives.

It’s a compelling mission, but there were technical challenges…

1426 Jackson Renovation

Roadblocks at the 1426 Resource Center

Weld’s collaborative re-entry resource center, 1426, is located in the heart of Seattle’s International District at 1426 South Jackson Street.

The building was donated for Weld’s use by founders of Zillow Group, Expedia, and Glassdoor. There are plans for extensive renovations to this building in late 2023 and 2024.

The location is prime, but the building in its current (pre-reno) state has no wired network infrastructure. To make matters worse, the wireless network was unreliable. Without reliable wired and wireless infrastructure, Weld couldn’t fulfill its mission at the 1426 location.

Donations from EXP Technical and Interface Technologies Northwest

Mike Cook, Principal at EXP Technical had an epiphany at his first visit to the Weld Community Resource Center. “I was touched by Weld’s operation. I personally feel that once people have paid their debt to society, we need to support them in their reentrance to society.”

He went on to say, “EXP’s office is downtown. I am a member of the downtown community and I see other community members that aren't doing so well. I feel if we all want to have a better community, we've got to participate in realizing that vision.”

After a brief assessment, Mike Cook at EXP Technical designed network infrastructure that included new cabling throughout the building, new switching infrastructure, and new wireless access points. 

EXP Technical provides IT support to hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses across the Pacific Northwest. EXP staff members live, learn., work, and play in the downtown Seattle area. The firm has a vested interest in Seattle's community enhancements. With that in mind,EXP Technical was eager to eliminate the tech challenges that Weld faced. EXP donated 100% of the labor costs for the wired and wireless network implementation for the Weld Community Resource Center.

Interface Technologies Northwest also participated in the project and joined in the spirit of rehabilitation with a hardware donation and significant discounts on project labor (low voltage cable runs throughout the building).

Bridging the Digital Divide

The deployment of the new technology by EXP Technical had a transformative effect on Weld's operations.

With improved connectivity, Weld experienced fewer dropped coordination calls, allowing for seamless communication with stakeholders, funders, grantors, and other partners. Additionally, the enhanced security measures, including the installation of security cameras, contributed to a safer environment for staff, participants, and visitors.

Most importantly, the new network infrastructure enabled Weld to stand up a computer lab!

The organization now offers a wide variety of training programs. These training programs include everything from adult literacy courses with AI based tutors, to digital literacy, SEO, prompt engineering, and as Brantley puts it, education on “how to live a thriving digital life.”

Transforming Lives

The impact is best illustrated through the stories of individuals touched by Weld's services.

A gentleman who had been incarcerated for 27 years was empowered to work with Weld's data and IT manager to understand database design, ensuring accurate input into their program management database.

Kareem Brantley emphasized the Herculean task of reintegrating into society after being away so long. “When I say ‘down for a while’ I mean they went in with AOL. We were using the Yellow Pages 27 years ago!”

Another success story involved helping a member build a resumé. This task may seem simple to those of us that have easy access to technology. For this individual it was previously impossible due to limited access and training.

These personal triumphs highlight the significant positive impact of the collaboration.

Positive Feedback from Key Stakeholders:

Weld's commitment to digital literacy and their innovative use of the new wireless network have garnered recognition and praise from various stakeholders and partners. Representatives from King County Government in particular, have commended Weld for their comprehensive capabilities and their dedication to teaching essential skills. This recognition has positioned Weld as an innovative organization that excels in their mission.

Fostering, Flourishing, and Broadening Horizons:

“You can’t be what you can’t imagine,” Kareem Brantley.

By leveraging the new wireless network, Weld has been able to support individuals who have little to no access to technology. Weld's mentoring programs, facilitated by individuals who have experienced similar journeys, have opened new horizons for young adults who lack exposure to broader possibilities. Weld is playing a pivotal role in empowering individuals to envision a brighter future.

Beyond Expectations—"Kind and Thoughtful”

The collaboration between Weld and EXP Technical exceeded expectations. The program successfully delivered on its goals, thanks to the clear communication and sound recommendations provided by EXP Technical.

“I want to underline our appreciation of EXP Technical. Your services allowed us to stand up a computer lab. That computer lab now is an access point for people like us to get familiar with the world. We appreciate the work that you do. It was ‘above and beyond’ and it was really kind…really kind and thoughtful!” Kareem Brantley.