Several faith-based organizations, in partner with local agencies and municipalities, are working to create a permanent homeless shelter that will house women and families living on the Eastside.
The $8 million project will result in a two-story, 16,243-square-foot building located on the northwest corner of the Salt House property in Kirkland, located at 11920 N.E. 80th St., across from Lake Washington High School and west of Kirkland Cemetery. Salt House is currently in the process of selling this portion of land to the City of Kirkland.
The shelter will offer a safe place for families and single women to sleep, store their belongings, shower, do their laundry, eat a meal and access housing resources and case management.
The second floor, operated by The Sophia Way, will house single women, with a capacity for about 50 people. There will also be a day center on this floor for single women.
The day center increases the building’s capacity from about 100 to 160 or 170, said Kim Saunders, Salt House council president.
In addition to Catholic Community Services, The Sophia Way and Salt House, the New Bethlehem Project, which opened the New Bethlehem Day Center in the Salt House basement nearly a year ago, Catholic Housing Services, A Regional Coalition for Housing and the City of Kirkland are involved in the creation of this new permanent shelter.
Saunders, as well as representatives from the various organizations involved, spoke about the project and homelessness on the Eastside during a public meeting at the Salt House in late September.
In 2016, there were around 300 un-sheltered adults and children on the Eastside, according to the one-night count, an 87 percent increase from 2015, she said.
“We do experience quite a bit of homelessness on the Eastside,” Saunders said. “People that are experiencing homelessness tend to be from the community itself. These are actually our neighbors that have become homeless.”
And homelessness isn’t evenly distributed. There tends to be more people of color and LGBTQ individuals who are homeless, she said. There are also higher rates of domestic violence and abuse among people who become homeless, especially when it comes to families and young people.
There’s a significant need for behavioral health services and treatment.
And for most, homelessness is temporary.
There are three overnight homeless shelters on the Eastside. There is one for families with children younger than 18 years old, one for adult women and one for adult men. The families and women shelters are hosted at local churches and rotate locations every few months. The men’s winter shelter is located in Bellevue.
Typically they open around 8 p.m. and close in the morning around 7 a.m.
“Of course there are still big gaps in terms of the service times that are available,” Saunders said. “Even when the overnight shelters are open they close in the morning.”
The New Bethlehem Day Center developed out of the need to have some place for people, particularly families, to go during the day. The day center is open Sunday through Friday from 2-8 p.m.
When it first opened, they had about 11 people. Now they’re up to 35-45 people a day.
“About half of them are children,” said Natalia Pierson, day center program manager. “We’ve definitely grown a lot.”
On Father’s Day, their busiest day of the year, they had 61 people.
“We definitely see the numbers going up, but we are also getting people into housing,” she said.
So far, the day center has housed nearly 40 people.
The permanent shelter will replace the New Bethlehem Day Center, freeing up that space to be used for something else, like a day care center, Saunders said.
The groups are in the process of raising money for the new shelter. The City of Kirkland has already committed $180,000 to the project. The groups are seeking aid from ARCH, the county and the state. They hope to have a handle on those funds by the end of the year.
Then, come next year, they will launch a funding campaign from private donors. Saunders estimates they’ll need to raise at least another $1 million to $1.5 million, maybe more.
If everything goes smoothly, crews could be breaking ground on the permanent shelter in summer 2018, opening for business in summer 2019.
In the meantime, the three overnight shelters rely on the community to provide healthy meals for guests.
“Along with main dish, fruit and vegetables are greatly appreciated,” said Andrea Liggett, pastoral assistant for social justice and outreach with Holy Family Parish. “Providing a meal is a great opportunity for church groups, scout troops, co-workers, neighbors, local businesses and more to serve those most in need in our community.”
For more information or questions on donating meals, contact Liggett at email@example.com.