Catholic Community Services (CCS) and The Sophia Way, organizations focused on providing shelter and other services to the unhoused, have received a social impact grant from Premera Blue Cross.
The grant, totaling at $250,000, will go toward onsite mental health services and construction for the new 24/7 Kirkland homeless shelter, which broke ground earlier this year and will be open by late 2020. It will be the only permanent shelter on the Eastside serving single women and families.
“I feel incredibly proud to be part of this project,” Rebecca Nightingale, project manager of the CCS-managed New Bethlehem Project, said. “I think the timing is right. I think adding in mental health services is critical.”
Nightingale described the process of applying for the grant as a collaborative effort between The Sophia Way and CCS. She said that it was around July that the organizations found out that they had received it, and that it was exciting to know that the shelter, which Nightingale referred to as the “capital campaign,” would have more financial support.
“To be able to put money toward closing that final small gap in the capital campaign as well as knowing we can ensure mental health services was a huge win,” she said, adding that it’s become increasingly difficult to find places willing to donate their spaces for an overnight shelter.
The Kirkland shelter was put into motion in 2017 and is set to be collaboratively operated by CCS and The Sophia Way. The two-story facility is located at Northeast 80th Street and 120th Avenue Northeast in Kirkland.
The $10 million project, in addition to the Premera grant, is being funded by the city of Kirkland, A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH) and King County, with further financial support from state and federal funds and private donations.
The shelter will encompass services that are not currently offered in one location on the Eastside. Nightingale said this often leads unhoused residents to travel to and from resources across cities to get the services they need, whether it be a bed for the night or case management.
“We’re not going to be putting people out into the street any longer,” the Sophia Way’s interim executive director Alisa Chatinsky said of the 24/7 shelter. “They don’t have to brave the cold or the rain, they won’t have to take buses, and they will receive all the same services we’re offering at our day center in one place.”
Chatinsky said she was “ecstatic” when she first heard about the grant and that she was “truly, truly grateful” to Premera.
“It takes a village, and we’re honored that the community supports us in our work,” she added.
Chatinsky also emphasized that the mental health component backed by the grant is “huge.”
“Homelessness is a very, very traumatic experience,” she said. “So understanding where our women are coming from and reaching where they’re at and assisting them in their recovery…with the programs we can offer them by having a mental health professional…is only going to result in better outcomes.”
Once it’s completed, the 24/7 shelter will offer daily services including sleeping units, a day center, onsite mental health and substance abuse treatment, housing-focused case management and amenities like laundry and showers. The structure be able to serve more than 100 unhoused residents on a daily basis and will ultimately replace the current rotation routine in place.
In addition to the other resources provided by the shelter, each floor of the building has a distinct purpose and organizational connection. On the first floor, private and communal spaces will be offered to families with children via the New Bethlehem Project, one of CCS’s current programs. The second floor will be run by The Sophia Way and will offer supportive services and private cubicles for women, according to a press release.
“We’re thrilled to receive this significant Premera grant that will enhance our collaboration with The Sophia Way to provide the only Eastside 24/7 shelter serving homeless families and single women,” CCS King County agency director Bill Hallerman said in the release. “We’re grateful to the Premera Blue Cross for recognizing the critical need for mental health services and this facility.”