by Devin Chicras
Hope for families experiencing homelessness is on its way to unincorporated West Hill’s Lakeridge neighborhood (just north of Skyway, along Lake Washington).
A new partnership brings a navigation center and shelter for families transitioning to permanent housing from REACH (Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches) called “Center of Hope” to Lakeridge Lutheran Church this spring.
The endeavor, dubbed “Hope on the Hill”, builds on REACH’s success since 2013 of moving families into stable housing. About 50 families each year successfully transition into housing following their stay, which often lasts no longer than 70 days.
Clients are referred either by calling 2-1-1 or through local stakeholders. The intake process involves trained staff who screen out those with a history of violent crime, sexual offenses, or domestic violence. The shelter maintains a zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use.
Once at the shelter, on-site staff and other professionals work with clients to provide services and focus on finding permanent housing. Many have jobs or attend school during their stay.
As part of their agreement with Lakeridge Lutheran Church, the lease includes an ongoing commitment to also paying “real rent” to the Duwamish Tribe.
To create a dignified, comfortable space for families, remodeling to the church is underway to create sleeping spaces, showers, a laundry area, and space for offering counseling services. Enhanced space for congregational and partner ministries’ use will also be available.
Lakeridge Lutheran Church will continue to function as a space for worship, daycare, community groups, and short-term shelters such as the annual month-long South King County cooperative housing venture for homeless men operated by Catholic Community Services called “ARISE” (Area of Renton Interfaith Service Endeavor).
The church has stated their interest in serving community in meaningful ways, and “bringing services here in partnership with the community is also a grounding value for REACH”, shared REACH Development Director Maggie Breen.
Fin Hardy, member of Lakeridge Lutheran Church and Steering Committee Member for Hope on the Hill (and West Hill Community Association Vice President), said “Lakeridge Lutheran has been focused on homeless ministry for many years. It is part of our church’s DNA. We have hosted the ARISE men’s shelter for one month each year since 2005, as well as Tent City 3 during the winter of 2019. We feel deeply committed to serving all of our neighbors.”
In their recent annual report, REACH offers a glimpse of what the Center of Hope does. They helped a family who lost everything in a car fire get into transitional housing and find new employment within one week. They assisted a woman who was a refugee turn her hairdressing skills – once exploited in human trafficking – into a profitable business that can support her family. They also helped a mother who was fleeing domestic violence and balancing full time work successfully save for and find new housing. In total, they helped 109 people find stable housing last year.
REACH and Lakeridge Lutheran Church have been hosting a series of community meetings, which began with outreach to community leaders in August 2020. Further community meetings will be held in the coming weeks with two virtual neighborhood engagement meetings scheduled for Saturday, January 23 at 1 p.m. and Monday, January 25 at 6 p.m. Register online to receive the Zoom link a day in advance of each meeting. More dates will be released soon.
West Hill Community Association will also be broadcasted the meeting on Facebook Live (see video and archived live Tweet thread below).
REACH and Lakeridge Lutheran Church are also seeking the participation of neighbors in a neighborhood advisory board. Anyone interested should email [email protected].
REACH also accepts donations of items, funds, or your time. “There will be lots more opportunity [to support] once we can be together again and once we are in the space, but we also want to work with and be led by the local community to be responsive to community knowledge and ideas.” said Breen. “So as you see us at community meetings please connect with thoughts and ideas as we further develop our relationships in West Hill.”
If you have additional questions, you can contact a Hope on the Hill Steering Group member.
UPDATE: WHCA live streamed the meeting on Saturday, January 23.
And WHCA covered the event live on Twitter:
Learn about a new partnership between @reachrenton1 and @lakeridge_elca to end family homelessness with a new shelter and navigation center at the neighborhood meeting streaming at http://fb.com/mywesthill
LIVE TWEET THREAD ⬇️
For background (and lots of photos!), check out our blog post on #HopeOnTheHill
Learn more about @reachrenton1 Center of Hope:
Here’s how to contact members of the Hope on the Hill Steering Committee if you have questions: https://www.reachrenton.org/hoh-steering-committee.html
Donate items to Center of Hope: https://www.reachrenton.org/items.html
Donate funds: https://www.reachrenton.org/donate1.html
Pastor Scott Kramer of @lakeridge_elca talks about the congregation’s work with folks experiencing homelessness through hosting the ARISE men’s shelter, Tent City 3, and now @reachrenton1 Center of Hope.
Maggie Breen of @reachrenton1: We realized unless we set up day services [in addition to overnight shelter], we were not helping the situation. We started by partnering with @CityofRenton and hosting out of city hall and community center. Many on verge of homelessness here.
Pattie Holt of @reachrenton1: “It’s definitely a family shelter”. Goal is to move families into stable housing ASAP – averaging 77-day stays. We have wrap-around services, teach budgeting skills, resume writing help. Taking safety and COVID-19 precautions seriously.
Pattie Holt of @reachrenton1: There will always be at least one staff with trauma-informed training on duty, 24/7. We’re all about helping people, we’re about community. – you’ll be glad we’re there.
Fin Hardy of @lakeridge_elca and #HopeOnTheHill Steering Committee: Our goal is to have Center of Hope move into Lakeridge Lutheran by the end of March. We’ve received support from #KingCounty Councilmember @CMGirmayZahilay
Maggie Breen, REACH: We have developed deep partnerships in the community, we understand we cannot function well without the knowledge of our community partners. WHCA is noted as one of those partners.
Maggie Breen: We want to keep people in their homes, we WANT to go out of business. We also focus on diversion & prevention. Last year, disbursed $55k for folks to pay bills and helped 27 families stay in their homes. We will be able to take referrals for support.
We are a “medium barrier” shelter, we will not let anyone in that is visibly high or drunk, but we will work with people battling addictions and meet them where they are.
Fin, @lakeridge_elca: We have a small congregation, but large building. We host temporary shelters, another small congregation on Saturday, day care, but we have space for #HopeOnTheHill to use our basement (being remodeled now). Timeline is accelerated due to COVID response.
Maggie Breen, REACH: What we see is there is LESS crime when the building is regularly activated (such as with the shelter/nav center). We are committed to creating a safe environment. #HopeOnTheHill
.@KingCoSheriff Deputy Jimmy Mitchell: Looking at all the data for crimes in the area, stats go ⬇️ in areas that have hosted shelters in the community. When Tent City 3 temporarily moved into @lakeridge_elca in 2019, rampant mail theft went down. Property values continue to rise.
.@KingCoSheriff Deputy Jimmy Mitchell in response to KCSO regular partnership, and efforts as de facto “social workers”, “We will continue to problem solve and make #WestHill a great place to live.” #HopeOnTheHill
Pattie Holt of REACH:
– All of our students are engaged in online learning.
– We are currently hosting 35 individuals, max capacity 55.
We’re signing a 5-yr lease w/ @lakeridge_elca (includes @RRentDuwamish to @Duwamish_Tribe). Our clients have separate sleeping spaces with privacy using “cubicle walls”. But our clients deserve even more, so will looking for a more permanent solution long-term.
There will be another meeting on Monday, and there will be more community meetings to come. COVID-19 has made outreach difficult. We will be forming a community advisory board. #HopeOnTheHill
REACH/Maggie: Contracts w/ @kingcounty, @CityofRenton, @CityofTukwila, @auburn_wa. @SeaTacWA next year. KC has heard from #Skyway–#WestHill that they’ve not provided services responsive to local community, so contract w/ REACH is to address. 70% of clients are fm S. King County.
Pattie, REACH: Because of lack of space, we can only take in what we can use immediately. We don’t have a kitchen, so there is a need for fresh food, also deodorant. We try to keep the list current, but email me for specific priorities: [email protected].