I am writing this as a native Kirkland resident — I was born in the Kirkland Hospital (now the Heathman Hotel) and still live in Kirkland.
When I learned there would be a day center for families experiencing homelessness in Kirkland, I couldn’t understand why. I knew there were homeless people everywhere, but I wasn’t aware that there were so many in Kirkland.
Who are these people? Are they lazy, don’t have jobs or just wanting free food and shelter? Why are they homeless? Were they evicted because they didn’t pay their rent?
I wanted to learn more about this population, that I wasn’t aware existed in such large numbers. So, I became a volunteer at the New Bethlehem Day Center, almost a year ago. It is located in the downstairs of the Salt House Church, across from Lake Washington High School, off of Northeast 80th Street.
I learned so much about the clients of the NBDC. They are part of our community and our neighbors. Most of the people who frequent this day center do have jobs. They are low paying jobs, and living in Kirkland, this will not allow them to make ends meet. They cannot afford food or shelter on the income they have.
We provide food, showers and laundry. One of our biggest priorities is that these people find stable housing and we have found some 20 families places to live!
These are not scary people or drug users who should be feared, but people with families, just like all of us, who want and need shelter and food. We also get to know the parents and children and learn about how they ended up with these needs. They are kind, appreciative people who need help. They may have been evicted by a developer who has purchased their housing and plans to build several mega mansions, which most of us will never be able to afford.
Bottom line is they are PEOPLE, just like me and you. So, I encourage, or challenge you, to find out more about the NBDC and volunteer. You can bring food for snacks; you can bring food for an evening meal; you can volunteer to help serve clients and their children. There are endless ways to help these people who are in need of help and compassion.