A woman and her dog play near the new fenced area for Lake Washington United Methodist Church’s Safe Parking program. Brian Grubb, Fences For Fido

A woman and her dog play near the new fenced area for Lake Washington United Methodist Church’s Safe Parking program. Brian Grubb, Fences For Fido

Volunteers build dog park for homeless women’s pets

Fences For Fido, a regional nonprofit organization, recently partnered with a local church to provide an off-leash area for dogs who live in cars with their homeless owners.

The organization sent their Olympia crew to help Lake Washington United Methodist Church in Kirkland build a small dog park last Saturday for a Safe Parking program. The program provides a safe place for homeless single-women and families to park, shower and cook in church facilities.

“I think sometimes we have a preconceived idea of who homeless and un-housed people are,” said Joy Theilsen, coordinator for the church’s Safe Parking program. “They’re just regular people and they’re trying as best they can to get out of this situation.

Fences For Fido organizes volunteers and donations to build fences for confined or chained dogs throughout Oregon and southwest Washington. The church noticed many of their guests had pets that were often confined to vehicles and decided to host a fencing project.

“Sometimes their dog is the only family or friends they have,” said Michele Coppola, operations coordinator and president of communications at Fences For Fido. “We want to make sure that these dogs, who sometimes spend 20-plus hours in the car with their owners, have a place where they can exercise, be healthy and be dogs.”

Fences For Fido began in 2009 when the first group built its first fence in Portland, Oregon. for a yellow Labrador mix named Chopper. The organization now has chapters from Albany, Oregon to Olympia and as far east as Hood River, Oregon.

<strong></strong>One of the Safe Parking guests’ dog explores the new 20- by 100-foot area built by Fences For Fido’s Olympia volunteer crew. <em>Brian Grubb, Fences For Fido</em>

One of the Safe Parking guests’ dog explores the new 20- by 100-foot area built by Fences For Fido’s Olympia volunteer crew. Brian Grubb, Fences For Fido

Additionally, the organization started the Unchained Planet movement in hopes to spread their mission and inspire other groups to form worldwide.

Fences For Fido has been attempting to form a King County crew to meet the high demand in the area. Coppola said she hope’s this project will inspire locals to start a group.

“I would be happy to volunteer or be on their board up here,” Theilsen said. “The need is there. We just need to get something going…Hopefully, we’ll get enough interest in it to get people to step up to the plate.”

Currently, the Olympia-based volunteer crew is the furthest north Fences For Fido has expanded to and while they hoped to inspire a new crew in the King County area, Coppola said they were happy just to help the Safe Parking program.

“It was something we just had to do,” she said. “We were uniquely equipped to help with (the situation).”

Fences For Fido often targets their projects toward individual dogs that are continuously chained up outside. The volunteer crews simply ask to build a fence and insulated dog house at no cost to the owner.

Unfortunately, some owners aren’t interested in the project, but the organization has helped unchain more than 1,300 dogs in the region, according to Coppola.

The LWUMC project features a 20-foot-by-100-foot fenced area giving the dogs an enormous upgrade from a cramped vehicle. The church is also looking at options for the many cats and bunnies that their guests own, according to Theilsen.

The parking program began after the church as a whole voted to provide homeless families and single-women with a safe place to park, sleep in their cars and join the community. The program has hosted 400-500 women and children over the past five years. Theilsen said the congregation will soon discuss expanding the program by building a separate shelter.

“I have met some of the most amazing, resilient people in my life in this program,” Theilsen said. “They want to get out of this situation, this is not someplace they want to be…and they’re right in your own neighborhood.”


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Life

Dr. Adam Rothenber is a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon at EvergreenHealth Orthopedic & Sports Care. Courtesy photo/EvergreenHealth
The ins and outs of joint replacement

By Dr. Adam Rothenberg Special to the Reporter According to the Center… Continue reading

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Courtesy photo
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid | Car review

There’s a reason Honda’s CR-V has been America’s top-selling crossover vehicle over… Continue reading

2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat. Courtesy photo
2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat | Car review

Ford’s venerable compact Ranger pickup went away for a while. But it… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
Sign up for 2020 ‘Run to Rwanda’ Fun Run slated for September

Clyde Hill resident Sophie Sharp, an 11th grade student at The Overlake… Continue reading

Screenshot of the stray kitten and the Rev. Aaron Burt from the July 12 liturgy video.
Stray kitten surprises local priest during virtual Sunday service

“It was one of the most difficult sermons I’ve ever had to offer, because I was trying not to step on her.”

Washington State Fair cancelled

COVID-19 outbreak claims another event

Listen and Talk students playing on playground. Courtesy photo.
Specialty school coming to Kirkland

Listen and Talk is a specialized program for young children who are deaf or hard of hearing

Decorated statue at Marina Park in support of Black Lives Matter efforts. Reader submitted photo.
Ribbons for Black Lives Matter

The display at Marina Park coincides with statewide efforts of the local King County Black Lives Matter chapter.

Kirkland Wednesday Farmers Market will run every Wednesday from June 5 through September 25.
Kirkland farmers markets are ready for shoppers

Both Kirkland Wednesday Market and Juanita Friday Market are practicing social distancing during their reopenings.

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.

Local musicians hold virtual benefit concert for mental health

The stream-a-thon supports NAMI Eastside and nonprofit Hold Your Crown

Hannah Scholes. COURTESY PHOTO
Waste reduction from home

A monthly column from Waste Management.