All posts by Gypsy Walukones

Stay the day: It just might make all the difference if you work nights

By Brett Renville, documentary filmmaker

Like a lot of people, my work demands that I put in long days. Sometimes, due to the nature of video production, it can go long into the night. But it’s just the cost of doing business and I know at the end of the day—whenever it ends—that I have a place to go, to rest and grab a few hours of sleep. Be it back at home, or, if I’m on the road, in a hotel, I don’t worry about it. I can curl up under the blankets, flip on the TV, listen to music, whatever. I’m comfortable, secure and safe.

I didn’t give this a lot of thought until I met Robert Taylor, program coordinator at Compass at First Presbyterian, a 24-hour shelter that opened last month in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood. When I stopped by just after lunch, I noticed a couple of men sleeping in the new 100-bed facility. I figured they were catching up on the exhaustion of living on the streets.

The community at the opening celebration of the new Compass at First Presbyterian 24-hour shelter– Photo: Capitol Hill Times

Turns out, Robert informed me, they had just come in after finishing work: the graveyard shift. They were resting up before putting in the next eight hours. The night shift is a ready employment opportunity for the homeless population, yet, it’s also, ironically, a barrier for homeless people trying to access shelter. And like many of the barriers that prevent homeless people from gaining a foothold and finding security, it’s hidden in plain sight.

Shelter in a World that Never Sleeps

Robert walked me through the steps of a 24-hour shelter and how it can have a transformational impact on the homeless population, seeking opportunity, livelihoods and stable housing.

Think about it. We live in a 24/7 world. While you and I sleep the night away, a massive workforce is wide awake, working through the darkest hours. Stocking grocery shelves, packing warehouse boxes, serving meals at late night diners—and a million other things— they are the drivers of our economy. And largely unseen.

But when their shift is over, say 3, 4 or 5 am, it’s time to unwind, eat and grab some sleep before setting out for the next shift. But what if you don’t have anywhere to go? Shelters typically offer a place for the night. So, what does that offer a homeless person who works nights? Not much. No bed, no meal, no shower, no security.

Photo: KUOW

As Robert pointed out, the opportunity lost is two-fold. Graveyard shifts, which offers more money due to the unconventional hours, are widely available but incredibly hard to swing when you live on the streets. This means the prospect for steady employment, at a higher wage rate, is within reach, but beyond the grasp of many homeless people.

Seattle is a rising economic star dimmed by an epic homeless crisis. Diverse employment options must figure into the constellation of creative solutions. Robert pointed to the pillars of Compass’ housing model: Stability, Growth and Community. For the homeless individuals who come to the shelter at Compass at First Presbyterian, there is no mandate to move on at daybreak. They don’t head back to the streets, only to start all over the next day. Instead, they are settling in, getting rest, a warm meal, a shower. They can do laundry and case managers are on-site to help them begin the process of navigating journey toward stable housing.

Enhanced shelter: It’s more than a safe refuge for the night. It’s a launching pad. And the difference is night and day.


Volunteers Give Time, Energy During The United Way’s Day of Caring

Five of Compass Housing Alliance’s program locations look a little fresher this week after Friday’s Day of Caring. Eight teams joined us to help paint and spruce up our affordable housing, transitional housing, and shelter programs.

Thanks to volunteers, participating companies, and The United Way for your help!

Peter’s Place

Teams from Zillow and Microsoft painted Peter’s Place. Peter’s Place offers both nighttime shelter and daytime drop-in services, providing  meals, case management, and access to a nurse and mental health services.

Pioneer Square Men’s Program

United Way Loaned Executives tackled a painting project at our Pioneer Square Men’s Program. This program provides transitional housing for 70+ men. Located at our headquarters, Pioneer Square Men’s Program operates alongside our Client Services Office & Hygiene Center.

Karlstrom Apartments

Teams from the Seattle Sounders FC & Microsoft helped repaint a large section of our Karlstrom Apartment building. Karlstrom offers permanent affordable housing for low income singles.


Children’s Center at our Renton Veteran’s Program

A Microsoft team gave the Children’s Center at our Renton Veteran’s Program a facelift. Renton Veteran’s provides transitional housing and permanent affordable housing for veterans and their families. The Children’s Center offers reading groups, art classes, and more to engage young residents.

Northlake Grove

Teams from Edifecs and General Dynamics- OTS spruced up our Northlake Grove property. Northlake Grove is a cooperative permanent housing program providing housing for 24-low income singles and families.

Interested in learning more?

If you have questions about Compass’ work or additional volunteer opportunities, please reach out to Community Resources Coordinator Jennifer Marquette here or at 206.474.1071. We are always looking for new project ideas and volunteers!

Opening Doors to Help More People Navigate to Permanent Housing

Eight months of hard work and planning culminated yesterday in the grand opening of Compass at First Presbyterian. The new enhanced shelter in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood provides overnight shelter, meals and case management services. With the paint barely dry, members of the First Hill community gathered to celebrate and acknowledge what is possible when our community, non-profits and local governments come together to apply their collective will to solve a pressing problem.

More than just a bed for the night, Compass at First Presbyterian offers a significant departure from the traditional shelter model. By combining safe shelter, complete wrap-around services—including meals, laundry and shower facilities—and intensive case management, Compass offers a pathway to permanent housing for 100 men and women.

Compass Housing Alliance and partners carefully designed and developed the space to support people along with their partners, possessions and pets. For many people who sleep outside, traditional shelters are not an option. Often, people do not want to be separated from their loved ones or the personal items they have managed to retain.

At Compass at First Presbyterian, men occupy the main area and have dedicated bathrooms, changing areas and laundry facilities. Sleeping quarters for women are in a separate room connected to their own bathroom and laundry room. Each guest has a large bin for their possessions which will be kept safely in the storage room.

Compass at First Presbyterian is the outcome of a partnership between Compass Housing Alliance, First Presbyterian Church and the City of the Seattle.

Speaking at the opening ceremony today, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said that the city had realized that traditional shelter approaches were not working. “We knew we had to develop an integrated approach to homelessness that was based on outcomes and not only services delivered.” Murray said the most important outcome is permanent housing.

He added that the city had decided to invest $1.3 million in Compass at First Presbyterian because it offers a new approach to shelter housing: a place to stay and access services with the opportunity to find permanent housing. Murray said that 24/7 shelters are the next step to housing stability.

Partnering for Greater Impact

Seattle First Presbyterian Church provided the space to make this shelter possible. “We are so thankful to partner with Compass Housing Alliance and in helping people, our lives will also be changed,” said Reverend Heidi Husted Armstrong.

Recalling a meeting with the Compass Housing Alliance team eight months ago, Pastor Heidi said: “We stood in this space and had a conversation. Something happened and within an hour, we were almost like kids at Christmas looking at each other and wondering if something like this could really happen.”

Executive Director Janet Pope of Compass Housing Alliance emphasized that this project has been a true partnership. It also represents a system-wide opportunity to do things better. “The 24/7 enhanced shelter model offers individuals the opportunity to stay in one place, which is the stability they need while searching for a permanent solution, rather than returning to the streets each day and hoping for a bed somewhere that night.”

“Compass Housing Alliance has nearly 100 years of experience serving a vulnerable population and have advocated for this system-changing, 24/7 model within the four shelters that we operate. We are pleased to continue our partnership with the city in implementing this evidenced best practice in our community,” Pope explained.

In the coming days, the first guests will start moving in. What today was an empty space will be filled with the sounds of people reclaiming their paths to stability within a caring community.


Why sky-rocketing rents are pushing those living at the margins into homelessness

By Janinne Brunyee

Increasing homelessness is an unintended consequence of Seattle’s economic boom. More and more people find themselves priced out of the rental market. This topic has been particularly on my mind recently as my step-daughter, who moved in with us a year ago when she relocated from Bellingham to start her first job in Seattle, has been looking for an affordable apartment. While she is fortunate enough to have a secure safety net, we have found her struggle to find an apartment she and a roommate could afford in a highly competitive rental market illuminating. Thankfully, due to luck and ingenuity, they have managed for find a place in West Seattle. But they are now at the mercy of their landlord. What if the landlord raises rent beyond their reach or sells the building in the next few years?

According to the Washington State Department of Commerce, growing rents are the overwhelming cause for the increase in homelessness since 2013. The 2017 “Count Us In” report revealed that of Seattle’s homeless population, 41 percent said they became homeless after being evicted or losing a job.

Photo: The Seattle Times

In July, The Seattle Times reported that from June 2015 to June 2016, rents in Seattle grew four times faster than the national average. And according to a recent Zillow report, the typical monthly rent in the Seattle metro area exceeded $2,000 for the first time this spring and is up 9.7 percent in the past year. Seattle’s rent was $300 more than the U.S. average in 2011; now, it’s $620 more.

Two years ago, city officials noted that it would take two wage earners, both working full-time at $15/hour, to rent the average one-bedroom apartment and be able to afford other basic living expenses. Today, those same workers need to each earn $19.84/hour to afford the same apartment.

Source: 2017 Count Us In Report

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s revised income limits for 2017 provides sobering news. A family of four making $72,000 or less in King and Snohomish County is now considered low income. Moreover, to qualify for Section 8 housing, residents must make 50 percent of the median income. In Snohomish and King counties, that means you would have to earn no more than $48,000 to get help with housing. In Pierce County, that number is $37,250.

FoxNews reports, however, that so many people earn less than $48,000 that the Snohomish and King County Housing Authorities take that number even lower. They target families with an income of 30 percent of the median income. That means the majority of Section 8 housing then goes to families bringing in $28,800 or less. And even then, they have a long wait list.

Rising Costs Across the Region

Many who cannot find affordable housing look to moving out of King County as a viable option. While some have made the move to Tacoma, this may not be the best solution either. Pierce County has the least number of affordable rental units in the state for really low-income people. For every 100 households earning up to 30 percent Area Median Income [AMI] there are only 50 housing units that they can afford.

According to the Tacoma/Pierce County Affordable Housing Consortium’s Affordable Housing Guidebook, a household, regardless of size, must earn $21.65 an hour, 40 hours every week of the year to afford a two-bedroom rental apartment in Pierce County without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing.

My step-daughter has the option of returning to our home if she loses her job or can no longer afford to pay the rent. More than 4,500 people in Seattle did not have this option. When faced with this situation, they had to pack their bags and move into their car or a tent.

Inch By Inch, Row By Row

By Pastor Julie Hutson, Luther Memorial Lutheran Church

There’s a folk song, made somewhat famous by John Denver, that describes the process of planting and growing a garden.

Inch by inch, row by row, going to make this garden grow.  All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground. 

The residents of Ronald Commons had a dream and a desire to plant and tend just such a garden.  A set of raised beds made this fertile ground possible. Soon after Ronald Commons opened, residents began planning what this plot of community might look like.  Resident Joel Cochran put his education and experience to work in creating a master plan for the garden. Donations from the community, including three area Lutheran (ELCA) churches:  Edmonds Lutheran Church, Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, and Maple Leaf Lutheran Church, helped with the purchase of plants and garden tools.

Eager to dig deeper than a financial donation, the confirmation classes from the three congregations offered up “people power” as the Ronald Commons residents planned for their day of garden planting.  Eight middle school students and three pastors listened attentively to instruction on the finer points of garden planting. Soon hands were busy (and dirty!) getting the vegetables, fruits, and flowers into the ground.

Pulling weeds and picking stones, we are made of dreams and bones; feel the need to grow my own ‘cause the time is close at hand.

Along the way, the confirmation students enjoyed a tour of the common areas of the housing as well as the chance to meet and enjoy the playground with some of the children who call Ronald Commons home.  Staff and residents joined in as the sun seemed to bless the activity itself and the community as it formed.

Reflecting on Challenges and Faith in Action

Follow up conversation centered around the need for affordable housing in our area and the challenges facing both those who need housing and those who have the capacity to provide it.  We discussed Compass Housing Alliance’s future affordable housing project on the site of Luther Memorial, made possible in part by the generosity of the congregation.  We also noted that Edmonds Lutheran is considering a similar partnership and that Maple Leaf has hosted Tent City.  The students were so excited to see faith in action!

As the day ended, everyone gathered around the freshly planted gardens to bless the garden and all of the hands who had made it possible.  The students and pastors look forward to a return trip to Ronald Commons to see the fruits of their labors!

Plant your rows straight and long, temper them with prayer and song.  Mother Earth will make you strong if you give her love and care.                                                  

For More Information:

Pastor Julie Hutson,

Songwriter: DAVID MALLETT Garden Song lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, Reservoir One Music, RESERVOIR MEDIA MANAGEMENT INC Used here for educational purposes.