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Kirkland father speaks about moving out of homelessness since son, Sky Metalwala, went missing
But it’s home. And it’s the start of a new life with his young daughter after more than a year searching for his missing son Sky.
“Well, my life has been pretty interesting but I only have three minutes, so I’ll make it really quick,” said Metalwala to a room full of laughter during KITH’s fourth annual fighting homelessness luncheon on Friday at The Westin Bellevue.
As more than 160 people listened to Metalwala, a KITH client, tell his unforgettable story, a screen behind him showed a picture of his smiling children, 6-year-old Maile and Sky, who was 2 years old when he went missing in Bellevue in 2011.
In a soft spoken voice, he described his two homes he had before he became homeless - a $265,000 Bellevue condo overlooking Lake Washington and a nearly $1 million home in Kirkland’s South Rose Hill neighborhood.
“I had a beautiful house in Bellevue and Kirkland - but it was never a home,” said Metalwala. “We had beautiful pictures, crown molding, TVs - I had all the bells and whistles because I was making a lot of money at that time. But it still wasn’t a home.”
He said the economy and the “friction in the household” caused he and his then-wife Julia Biryukova to lose both homes. The couple was going through a contentious marriage.
And then he received the news.
“The worst news that any parent can ever hear is when you see three cops come to your door and say, ‘Well, where’s your son,’” he recalled. “On Nov. 6, 2011 I found out that my little boy, Sky Metalwala, was missing and that led me to do hundreds and hundreds of searches, uncountable interviews and I couldn’t work. There was no way.”
The boy’s mother told police that she left Sky in her car after it ran out of gas in Bellevue that day. She claims she walked with her daughter to get help and when she returned the boy was gone.
The investigation into the boy’s whereabouts is still ongoing and police have found few leads.
In the meantime, Metalwala’s divorce was finalized in March 2012 and he was given custody of his daughter. Biryukova, who has refused to speak with investigators about her son’s disappearance, was disallowed visitation rights with her daughter.
Following the disappearance, Metalwala moved into his mother’s Kirkland home.
“We kind of nourished our little family to a point where we needed our own place,” he said. “But not working, not having an income and also going through a divorce and lawyers, every saving I had was gone.”
That’s when God “put a notion” in his heart that he should get a place of his own so that he could “grow” with his daughter, he said.
“I said alright Jesus, that’s fine but did you see my bank account,” he said as the audience laughed.
One of his friends told him about how she had received housing help from Section 8, but that it would probably take him a couple of years to secure housing under that program.
So he connected with KITH - Kirkland Interfaith Transitions in Housing - a nonprofit organization in Kirkland that combats homelessness within the Eastside community. In less than two months, he moved into an apartment with his daughter in October 2012.
“My daughter and I, we got to celebrate her birthday in a home where there’s so much love,” he said. “We don’t have any bells and whistles, but we have a place where we’re safe. We know when we come home we can just be ourselves. And when you’re homeless, you don’t have that kind of grounding. [A home] provides you with that.”
He meets with his KITH caseworker every two weeks and they are working on moving him towards self-sufficiency by the end of the year.
He said KITH has been invaluable to his family as they move through their grief and re-focus their lives.
“Almost every day Maile comes to me and says, ‘I love our home. I love our little apartment,’” said Metalwala. “And I just thank God that we have a place that we can just call our own and she can grow up with just the initial things.”
Jennifer Barron, executive director of KITH, noted that this year’s One Night Count, organized by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, found 190 people without shelter on the Eastside in January. That number was up 30 percent from last year’s count of 138 people.
“I have been stunned when people ask me, ‘Do we really have homeless people on the Eastside,’” said Barron, who has been with KITH for five months. “So the answer is yes, we do have homeless people in our community.”
During the event, keynote speaker Dr. Joseph Castleberry, who is the president of Northwest University, spoke about the community’s “incredible moral opportunity” to help those experiencing homelessness.
The Bill Petter Homeless Housing Advocate Award was also given to Ron Boscola, general manager of Bellevue-based Murray Franklyn. The company’s employees helped renovate KITH’s Salisbury Court apartments last year.