Newcomer's Handbook Seattle

Helpful Services

Now that you have a place to call home, and have taken care of the basics like setting up electricity and gas accounts, you might have time to investigate and benefit from some of the area’s helpful services. Services such as Housecleaning, Pest Control or Automobile Repair can make your life a bit simpler. Other sections in this chapter include Postal and Shipping Services, Consumer Protection, Services for People with Disabilities, Gay and Lesbian Life and help for International Newcomers.

Domestic Services

For those who need a little extra help around the house, the following services might be of interest. Check the Yellow Pages for more listings.

Diaper Services

Dry Cleaning Delivery

  • Blue Sky Cleaners, 1111 Elliott Ave W (one of multiple locations), 206-838-8433, blueskycleaners.com
  • Helena’s Dry Cleaners, 537 Warren Ave N, 206-282-0873, helenascleaners.com
  • Stadium Cleaners, 3307 NE 65th St, 206-522-9125, stadiumcleaners.com
  • Valet Dry Cleaning to Your Door, 4425 Fauntleroy Way SW, 206-932-2242
  • Village Cleaners, 2929 NE Blakeley St, 206-522-1033, stadiumcleaners.com

House Cleaning

You may decide to use a housecleaning service before you move into your new home or for routine chores on an ongoing basis. A few housecleaning businesses are listed below. As with all lists in this guide, inclusion does not indicate endorsement. If you are not satisfied with the service you receive from a company during the initial cleaning, request that they clean again at no charge.

  • April Lane’s Home Cleaning, Seattle: 206-527-4290; Eastside: 425-649-8610, aprillanescleaning.com
  • Attention to Detail, 425-353-2850, attentiontodetailnw.com
  • Dana’s Housekeeping–Housekeeper Referral Service,866-826-3262; housecleaning.com
  • Maid Brigade, 866-800-7470, maidbrigade.com
  • Maid in the Northwest, Seattle: 206-527-3593th; Tacoma/Puyallup/Federal Way/Kent: 425-455-0655; Bellevue/ Eastside: 425-455-0655;Everett /Edmonds/Bothell 425-337-7889; maidinthenw.com
  • Merry Maids, Seattle/University District: 206-527-2984; West Seattle: 206-937-7083; North Seattle/South Snohomish County: 425-778-3355; Eastside: 425-881-6243; South King County: 253-833-6171; merrymaids.com
  • Mighty Maids, West Seattle: 206-938-9662; Eastside/Renton: 425-226-1614; South King County: 253-630-2799, mightymaidswa.com
  • Rent-A-Yenta House Cleaning Service, Seattle: 206-325-8902; Eastside: 425-454-1512; renta-yenta.com
  • Seattle Green Cleaner, 206-499-3046, seattlegreencleaner.com

Pest Control

Rats have long been a problem in Seattle, especially around greenbelt areas, and the pesky rodents are an increasing nuisance in the suburbs as well. If setting traps yourself hasn’t worked or is not an option, consider calling an exterminator, or visit pestweb.com to find tips for dealing with unwelcome house “guests.” These local pest control experts can also help you with carpenter ants (another local problem), as well as hornets, termites, and other pests that might be bugging you.

Postal and Shipping Services

If you are between addresses and in need of a place to receive mail, you can rent a box at a local post office or choose a private receiving service. Many of the private services allow call-in mail checks and mail forwarding, but they are often more expensive than the post office.

Mail Receiving Services

  • Queen Anne Dispatch, 2212 Queen Anne Ave N, 206-286-1024, queenannedispatch.com
  • The Mailbox, Seattle: Ballard, 2400 NW 80th St, 206-789-7007; Magnolia, 3213 W Wheeler St, 206-285-4843
  • The UPS Store, multiple locations include: 815 1st Ave, 206-624-3313; 1700 7th Ave, 206-624-1550; 4616 25th Ave NE, 206-524-2558; 4742 42nd Ave SW, 206-933-8038; 1037 NE 65th, 206-528-7447; 2311 N 45th St, 206-522-1970; 10002 Aurora Ave N, 206-527-5065; 410 Broadway Ave E, 206-860-0818; 1425 Broadway, 206-324-5600; 3518 Fremont Ave N, 206-547-4410; 24 Roy St, 206-282-2288, theupsstore.com

Package Delivery Services

Junk Mail

To curtail the deluge of mail you surely will receive after relocating, register online with the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service. There is a $1 fee for having your name removed from marketing lists and you can also print out a form and mail it in. Visit the website at dmachoice.org. This should help, but you will have to contact some catalog companies directly with a purge request, and it won’t affect companies who are not members of the DMA. (Keep in mind: you might actually appreciate some of the mass-market mail, as many retailers and household service providers welcome new residents with coupons and special offers.)

Automobile Repair

Finding a mechanic you can trust is often difficult. The most popular way to find a shop is to ask around—co-workers, neighbors, and friends. You can also check websites such as Yelp, Judy’s Book, and Angie’s List for consumer reviews and recommendations. Though often pricey, auto dealers are generally reliable, and will have the right equipment and parts to work on your car. Check the Yellow Pages and online for listings.

Those considering an independent mechanic shop may want to check with the Better Business Bureau to determine if any complaints have been filed against it. The local chapter serves Alaska, Oregon, and Western Washington, and is located at 1000 Station Drive, Suite 222, in DuPont. Call 206-431-2222 or visit thebbb.org.

If it’s just “advice” you need, consider tuning your radio to NPR’s wildly entertaining call-in show “Car Talk.” Locally, the program can be heard on KUOW, 94.9 FM, on Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m. You can also visit the show’s website at cartalk.com.

If the question isn’t who will repair your car, but rather who to call to have it towed, your best resource may be an automobile club like the American Automobile Association. For information about membership benefits and services, visit aaawa.com, or call 800-562-2582. There are three Seattle offices, located at: 4554 9th Avenue NE, 206-633-4222; 1523 15th Avenue West, 206-218-1222; and 4701 42nd Avenue SW, 206-937-8222. Additional locations are Bellevue, Bremerton, Everett, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, Lynnwood, Redmond, Renton, and Tacoma.

Consumer Protection—Automobiles

If you are looking for a new car, Washington has a Lemon Law to protect owners who have “substantial or continuing problems with warranty repairs.” A lemon is defined as a vehicle that has one or more substantial defects, which has been subject to a “reasonable number of attempts” to diagnose or repair the problem(s) under the manufacturer’s warranty. The law does not cover problems caused by owner abuse or negligence, or any unauthorized modifications made to the vehicle. Nor does it cover some motorcycles and large commercial trucks, motor homes used as homes, office or commercial space, or vehicles purchased as part of a fleet of 10 or more. The law allows the owner to request an arbitration hearing through the office of the Washington Attorney General within 30 months of the vehicle’s original retail delivery date. If you are not the original owner, you can still apply the lemon law if the vehicle was purchased within two years of delivery to the original retail consumer, and within the first 24,000 miles of operation. For more details, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection website at atg.wa.gov/consumer, or call 800-551-4636.

Information about vehicle recalls and crash tests can be found at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Auto Safety Hotline, 888-327-4236, or visit nhtsa.gov.

Consumer Protection—Rip-off Recourse

Got a beef with a merchant or company? There are a number of agencies that monitor consumer-related businesses and will take action when necessary. The best defense against fraud and consumer victimization is to avoid it—read the contracts down to the smallest print, save all receipts and canceled checks, get the name of telephone sales and service people with whom you deal, check a contractor’s license number with the state’s Consumer Protection Division for complaints. Despite such attention to details, sometimes you still get stung. A dry cleaner returns your blue suit, but now it’s purple and he shrugs. A shop refuses to refund, as promised, on the expensive gift that didn’t suit your mother. After $898 in repairs to your engine, your car now vibrates wildly, and the mechanic claims innocence. Negotiations, documents in hand, fail. You’re angry, and embarrassed because you’ve been had. There is something you can do.

  • Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection Division, 800 5th Ave, Ste 2000, 800-551-4636, atg.wa.gov/consumer; in 2010, problems with collection agencies, broadband service providers, telecommunications, retail and auto sales companies topped the list of consumer complaints received by the Attorney General’s Office. The Consumer Protection Division website outlines how to resolve and file complaints. Seven neighborhood consumer resource centers are also available throughout the state.
  • Better Business Bureau, 1000 Station Dr, Ste 222, DuPont, 206-431-2222, thebbb.org; the local chapter serves Western Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. The BBB can supply you with a reliability report for a business. The agency also accepts complaints when a breakdown in communication occurs between you and a business.
  • City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Customer Service Bureau , 600 4th Ave, Fl 1, 206-684-2489; seattle.gov/citizenservice; the Customer Service Bureau employs three complaint investigators who provide investigation, mediation, and assistance for questions and complaints about city services.
  • King County Office of Citizen Complaints, 516 3rd Ave, Rm W1039, 206-205-6338, kingcounty.gov/operations/Ombudsman.aspx ; if your dispute is with a county agency, contact the county Ombudsman’s Office. Though the office cannot take legal action on your behalf, they can generally resolve the matter through a fact-finding effort with the agency involved.
  • King County Small Claims Court, King County Courthouse, 516 3rd Ave, Rm W-1034, 206-205-9200, kingcounty.gov/courts; with some exceptions, an individual, business, partnership or organization can bring a small claims suit for the recovery of money only, up to $5,000. The filing fee is $35.
  • The Tenants Union, 5425B Rainier Ave S, 206-723-0500, tenantsunion.org; their website provides a series of online brochures to answer renters’ commonly asked questions. Phone calls are taken on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; walk-ins to the office are taken on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday between 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Media-Sponsored Consumer Advocacy Programs

The following consumer advocacy and assistance programs are operated by Seattle area television stations.

  • Columbia Legal Services, 101 Yesler Way, 206-464-1122, 800-542-0794, columbialegal.org
  • King County Lawyer Referral Service, 206-267-7100, kcba.org
  • Northwest Justice Project, 401 Second Ave S, 206-464-1519, 888-201-1012, nwjustice.org
  • Senior Services, 2208 2nd Ave, Ste 100; 206-448-5720; seniorservices.org
  • Washington State Bar Association, 206-443-9722, 800-945-9722; 1325 4th Ave, Ste 600; wsba.org
  • Washington LawHelp, washingtonlawhelp.org

Services for People with Disabilities

There are a number of organizations in the Seattle area that serve as resources for disabled persons. The Alliance of People with DisAbilities offers legal services concerning civil rights violations; an employment program, which provides assistance in finding a job; a travel training program, to help disabled persons use the Metro bus system; a technical assistance program, providing job training; and a self-advocacy program, to teach disabled persons how to speak up for their rights. The Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) Northwest supports the integration of all persons with disabilities into the community and provides publications on workplace accessibility and other topics. The Washington Assistive Technology Alliance (WATA) increases access to and awareness of technologies that provide assistance and accessibility for people with disabilities. The University of Washington’s Assistive Technology Resource Center (ATRC) provides information, referral services, training, and consultation regarding assistive technology devices, services, and funding. The Easter Seal Society of Washington provides housing assistance programs and vocational rehabilitation, including interview skills training, job search techniques, and on-the-job support. They also publish pamphlets listing accessible sites in the Seattle area.

Metro Transit issues Regional Reduced Fare Permits (RRFPs) to individuals with disabilities. The permit costs $3 and is valid for Metro transportation, Washington State Ferries, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, and most other bus agencies in the region. Buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts and special seating. For those individuals who require assistance in riding the bus, a special Personal Care Attendant permit allows the disabled person’s escort to ride free. Depending on the nature of the disability, a letter of certification from a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or audiologist is required. Call the Metro Transit RRFP Helpline at 206-205-9185, 206-684-2029 (TTY) for more information and to receive a copy of the certification form. If you are a frequent rider, you should register for an ORCA card, which works like cash or a credit card and eliminates the need for exact change. Some regional transit systems accept the ORCA card for paratransit services (curb-to-curb transportation service for people with disabilities who can’t ride fixed-route public transportation), as well.

Here’s a list of addresses and phone numbers for the above centers and some other national and local organizations:

  • Alliance of People with DisAbilities, 1120 E Terrace St, Ste 100, 206-545-7055, 206-632-3456 (TTY), disabilitypride.org
  • Center for Technology and Disability Studies, University of Washington, 206-685-4181 (Voice), 206-616-1396 or 866-0162 (TTY), uwctds.washington.edu
  • Deaf–Blind Service Center, 1620 18th Ave, Ste 200, 206-323-9178 (TTY), 866-238-8216 (Voice), seattledbsc.org
  • Disability Rights Washington, 315 5th Ave S, Ste 850, 800-562-2702, 800-905-0209 (TTY), disabilityrightswa.org
  • Easter Seals Washington, 220 W Mercer St, Ste 120-W, 206-281-5700 (Voice/TTY), wa.easterseals.com
  • Hearing Loss Association of Washington, 4820 156th Pl SW, Edmonds, WA 98026-4846, 301-657-2248 (Voice), 301-657-2249 (TTY), hearingloss-wa.org
  • Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center, 1625 19th Ave, 206-323-5770 (Voice), 206-388-1275 (TTY) hsdc.org
  • Learning Disabilities Association of Washington, 16315 NE 87th St, Ste B-11, Redmond, WA 98052, 425-882-0820, ldawa.org
  • Metro Transit, 206-553-3000, TTY relay 711, metro.kingcounty.gov
  • Northwest ADA Center, 6912 220th St SW, 800-949-4232, 425-771-7426 (TTY), dbtacnorthwest.org
  • SightConnection, 9709 3rd Ave NE, Ste 100, 206-525-5556, 800-458-4888, csbps.com
  • Washington Assistive Technology Act Program (WATAP), University of Washington, P.O. Box 357920, 800-214-8731, 866-866-0162 (TTY), watap.org
  • Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing , P.O. Box 45301, Olympia, WA 98504-5301, 360-902-8000 (Voice/TTY), 800-422-7930 (Voice/TTY), dshs.wa.gov
  • Washington Telecommunications Relay Services, dial 711, or 800-676-3777 (TTY/Voice), 800-676-4290 (TTY/Voz [Spanish])), washingtonrelay.com

Gay and Lesbian Life

When the census counted same-sex partners for the first time in 2000, figures indicated that Seattle has one of the nation’s highest percentages of gay households. According to the 2010 Census, one out of every 18 couples living together in Seattle are same-sex. While this may be news to some, it is not news to Seattle’s thriving and well-established gay community. There are numerous organizations, businesses, and publications that address the concerns and interests of Seattle’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community—too many to detail here. We mention the following as starting points.

  • Dignity Seattle, 206-659-5519, dignityseattle.org, is a local chapter of the country’s largest and most progressive organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics.
  • Gay City Health Project, 511 E Pike St, 206-860-6969, gaycity.org; Gay City is a multicultural gay men’s health organization and the leading provider of HIV and STI testing in King County.
  • Gay Fathers Association of Seattle, P.O. Box 1270, 1122 E Pike St, gfas.org; every Thursday evening GFAS sponsors a safe and anonymous support group for gay and bisexual men and their families.
  • Greater Seattle Business Association, 400 E Pine St, Ste 322, 206-363-9188, thegsba.org; GSBA’s goal is to strengthen and expand business and career opportunities in the gay and lesbian community.
  • Lambert House Gay Youth Center, 1818 15th Ave, 206-322-2515, lamberthouse.org; an activities and resource center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth ages 22 and under.
  • Lesbian Resource Center, 227 S Orcas St, 206-322-3953, lrc.net; established in Seattle in 1974, LRC promotes empowerment, visibility, and social change.
  • Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Seattle Chapter, 1122 E Pike St, 206-325-7724, seattle-pflag.org, promotes the health and well-being of sexual minorities through support, education, and advocacy.
  • Rainbow Families of Puget Sound, P.O. Box 70115, rainbowfamiliesps.org, helps GLBT families in the region to form strong community ties and spend time with families like their own.
  • Seattle LGBT Commission, 810 3rd Ave, Ste 750, 206-684-4500, 206-684-4503 (TTY), seattle.gov/lgbt; the commission presents the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered citizens to the Mayor, City Council, and all city departments.
  • Seattle Out and Proud, 1605 12th Ave, Ste 2, 206-322-9561, seattlepride.org, SO&P organizes and promotes the annual Seattle Pride parade and march.

Newspapers

  • Seattle Gay News, 1605 12th Ave, Ste 31, 206-324-4297, sgn.org
  • The Stranger, 1535 11th Ave, 206-323-7101, thestranger.com; while not strictly a gay paper, The Stranger is gay-friendly, produces an annual Queer Issue, and features Dan Savage’s weekly advice column “Savage Love.”

Entertainment

Most of Seattle’s gay bars and restaurants are located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

International Newcomers

According to the 2010 Census, foreign-born people make up nearly 20% of Seattle’s population—a 3% increase since the previous census. While the city is a desirable place to live, since 9/11 government regulations have made it a little more difficult to relocate here from abroad. Visit the U.S. consulate in your home country to learn the steps you will need to take depending on your relocation status. Rules are different for permanent residency, students, guest workers, etc.

You can find comprehensive information and help on the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services website at uscis.gov. There you can learn about the different types of immigrant and visa classifications, regulations, and the forms you will need. The USCIS strongly urges people to download forms from their website, but if you need to have forms mailed to you, call 800-870-3676. For more general questions and help, call 800-375-5283 or 800-767-1833 (TTY).

If you are already in Seattle and need to contact the USCIS, the local office is at 12500 Tukwila International Blvd. To make an appointment to speak with an Immigration Information Officer you must use an online service called INFOPASS, infopass.uscis.gov. Call 800-375-5283 for details.

Contacting the consulate of your home country can be a good starting point for adjusting to your new home in Seattle. The area is home to five official consulates and many honorary consulates. While honorary consulates may not be able to handle issues like visas and passports, they often provide resources for newcomers, and can connect you with local organizations.

Official Consulates

  • Consulate General of Canada, 1501 4th Ave, Ste 600, 206-443-1777, www.canadainternational.gc.ca
  • Consulate General of Japan, 601 Union St, Ste 500, 206-682-9107, seattle.us.enb-japan.go.jp
  • Consulate General of the Republic of Korea, 2033 6th Ave, Ste 1125, 206-441-1011, usa-seattle.mofat.go.kr/eng/am/usa-seattle/main/index.jsp
  • Consulate of Mexico, 2132 3rd Ave, 206-448-3526
  • Consulate General of the Russian Federation, 2001 6th Ave, Ste 2323, 206-728-1910, netconsul.org

Honorary Consulates

  • Consulate of Austria, 310-444-9310, austrianconsulateseattle.org
  • Consulate of Belgium, 2200 Alaskan Way, Ste 470, 206-728-5145
  • Consulate of Brazil, 4559 Stanford Ave NE, 425-235-0724
  • Consulate of Cambodia, 1818 Westlake Ave N, Ste 315, 206-217-0830, consulateofcambodia.com
  • Consul of the Republic of Croatia, 7547 S Laurel St, 206-772-2968
  • Consulate of Cyprus, 5555 Lakeview Dr, Ste 200, Kirkland, 425-827-1700
  • Consulate of Denmark, 6204 E Mercer Way, Mercer Island, 206-230-0888
  • Consulate of Estonia, 9133 View Ave NW, 206-310-2153
  • Consul General of Ethiopia, P.O. Box 77447, 206-364-6401
  • Consulate of Finland, 17102 NE 37th Pl, Bellevue, 425-885-7320
  • Consulate of France, 2200 Alaskan Way, Ste 490, 206-256-6184
  • Consulate of Germany, 7853 SE 27th St, Ste 180, 206-230-5138
  • Consul of Hungary, 2901 NE Blakely St, #500, 206-432-9767
  • Consulate of Iceland, 5610 20th Ave NW, 206-783-4100
  • Consulate of Italy, 23718 7th Ave SE, Bothell, 206-851-8023
  • Consulate of Jamaica, 8223 S 222nd St, Kirkland, 253-872-8950
  • Consulate of Latvia, 13517 69th Ave SE, Snohomish, 425-773-0103
  • Consulate of Lithuania, 5919 Wilson Ave S, 206-725-4576
  • Consulate of Luxembourg, 812 Warren Ave N, 206-724-7598
  • Consulate of Malta, P.O. Box 1104, Duvall, 425-788-3120
  • Consulate of New Zealand, P.O. Box 51059, 206-527-1896
  • Consulate of Norway, 7301 5th Ave NE, 206-284-2323
  • Consulate of Peru, 3717 NE 157th St, Ste 100, 206-714-9037
  • Consulate General of the Seychelles, 3620 SW 309th St, Federal Way, 253-874-4579
  • Consulate of Spain, 4709 139th Ave SE, 425-237-9373
  • Consulate of Sweden, 520 Pike St, Ste 2200, 206-467-8200
  • Consulate of Switzerland, 6920 94th Ave SE, 206-228-8110
  • Consulate of The Netherlands, 40 Lake Bellevue, Ste 100, Bellevue, 425-637-3050
  • Consulate General of Turkey, 12328 NE 97th St, Kirkland, 425-739-6722
  • Consulate of Uganda, 3226 Rosedale St, Gig Harbor, 206-571-9798
  • Consulate of the United Kingdom, 500 108th Ave NE, Ste 1500, 425-453-9400
  • Consulate General of Uzbekistan, 800 5th Ave, Ste 4000, 206-625-1199

Publications

  • The USCIS has a free, online brochure called Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants that can help you get settled, find resources, and learn about your rights and responsibilities. You can find it at welcometousa.gov.
  • Newcomer’s Handbook for Moving to and Living in the USA, by Mike Livingston, published by First Books, 503-968-6777, shopfirstbooks.com

Moving Pets to the USA

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