By Pastor Julie Hutson, Luther Memorial Lutheran Church
Recently, our congregation said a ritual farewell to the Fellowship Hall and kitchen at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in Greenwood. Why is this significant? Because it represents our congregation’s choice to take action against the homelessness crisis by helping to meet the need for affordable housing. To that end, we are providing space—a parking lot and the Fellowship Hall—to make way for Compass at Broadview. This project will bring 59 units of permanent and affordable housing to the Greenwood neighborhood.
Messages of Hope and Blessing
It was an inspiring moment to witness. Following prayers, we asked everyone to write blessings and share their hopes and messages of gratitude on the walls. We didn’t tell them what to write, we just offered markers and turned everyone loose.
We were so blown away by what they wrote. Many of the messages shared personal memories. Among them were heartfelt wishes for laughter, hope, housing, warmth and safety for those who will find homes at Compass at Broadview. I was really filled with thanksgiving that night!
As a people of faith, we strive to care for those who have been pushed to the margins of life. At our church, giving up a parking lot and a building is about making a space for our neighbors. We wait with much anticipation. We pray for those families, wherever they are now, that their path to housing will be a gentle one.
Nestled in the heart of Shoreline, Ronald Commons is home to 135 residents, including families with pets, Veterans, and persons with disabilities. Ronald Commons opened in February 2017. It provides 60 permanent affordable housing units and supportive case management services to our community.
For newer residents, building connections with their neighbors plays an important role in creating places of belonging and healing the trauma of homelessness. That’s where the Holy Spirit Lutheran Church‘s 9th grade confirmation class of nine youth and three adult leaders came in. They wanted to make a difference and leave a lasting impact. Tacos and Cupcakes were a deliciously perfect fit!
Taco Bar & Cupcake Decorating
The youth created a tasty taco bar with all the fixings for guests to enjoy. Over the meal, the youth and residents connected with each other, helping to forge new bonds and friendships between neighbors.
To create a special experience for youth residents and their parents, the group created a cupcake bar with fresh baked cupcakes, frostings, candies, fruit and more.
Group members and parents helped the children make delicious treats which they proudly showed off and enjoyed.
A Community Kitchen for Today and Tomorrow
To ensure there were plenty of supplies for other volunteer groups, the class generously donated everything Ronald Commons needed for their community kitchen. Donations included pots, pans, measuring cups, glasses, utensils, silverware, cookie making supplies and more.
Youth leader Tammy shared, “The kids had so much fun and would love to do it again! This experience meant a lot to them.”
It meant a lot to our residents as well. As one Ronald Commons resident shared, “We all had fun and I got to meet some really friendly people. This place is really starting to feel like home.”
We are thankful for group volunteers like the confirmation class from Holy Spirit Lutheran Church! If your group is interested in volunteering, reach out to email@example.com.
Whew! Gotta love the after-holiday catch up! Back at my desk at Compass at First Presbyterian, I am realizing how grateful I am to the community for all the positive energy and generous outreach over Thanksgiving.
The holidays can be a tough time in the shelter community. As you can imagine, people miss their families and the memories of a life past can create feelings of nostalgia. Therefore, I find that there is some importance in having large of amounts of good food. And I think we had that in spades! Among the staff, our hope was to make it a very special day for our guests, a day where they weren’t thinking about the challenging issues in their lives. Our goal was for them to be there, at ease and able to relax. We wanted them to have a good time and the atmosphere of joy among the staff made the day complete.
Everyone loved the celebration of food and cheer here at Compass at First Presbyterian! The day started with a brunch. Generous volunteers from the Royalty Panthers Social Club arrived to serve at around 11 a.m. They provided full sack lunch meals filled with sandwiches, fruit, chips, drinks and more.
We followed up with a genuine traditional thanksgiving meal provided by Operation Sack Lunch. It was a feast, but it may have been the enormous assortment of pies that blew us all away—all told, there were more than 20!
Then the food comas set in. Everyone was mellow and things got rather quiet very quickly. In step with Thanksgiving tradition, we had football on TV, followed by a night of movies in the dining area.
Looking back on our first Thanksgiving holiday at Compass at First Presbyterian, our own tradition is just getting started. With so many pies to consider, I look forward to the next!
With approximately 1,000 newcomers arriving in our city on any given week, it’s a question I welcome: Where are you from? Each time I am reminded of—and thankful for—the good fortune to be a native of this incredible city, Seattle. Perched at the crossroads of the Asia Pacific and the hub of an economic powerhouse, the Emerald City leads the way for the tech industry, scientific research, global health and development and academic excellence.
Today however, a surge of job opportunities and growth, our city leads in other ways. Rising median home prices have doubled in just five years to over $700,000 and soaring rents are pricing people out of their homes. The social safety net is worn thin. This puts our city in the eye of a perfect storm that is sweeping more and more people to life on the streets.
As we all give thanks this week, I am also taking stock. Grateful for many blessings, I am asking, “what is the way forward for our region?”
The future is up to us. With the ongoing challenges of homelessness and the affordable housing shortage, it’s clear that we have to turn to smarter solutions. Enhanced shelter is top among them.
What is enhanced shelter?
Compass at First Presbyterian, which opened last August, is an example of the enhanced shelter model in action. It provides wrap-around services in a 24/7 framework. It allows residents to stay the night and the next day—for as long as they need. It’s not just a safe haven; it’s a launch pad for long-term housing. We show support rather than showing them the door every morning. Guests who work at night, such as brothers Dion and Brillian, are able to safely sleep during the day. Lowering barriers by allowing partners, pets and possessions, we are working with residents, providing much-needed resources, as they redefine their lives. And let there be no doubt, it’s working.
As Q13 explored in this recent piece, Compass at First Presbyterian’s “relentless team of helpers” connects guests with the services and support they need to build greater stability in their lives.
Success comes one person at a time
How do you make progress in this battle against homelessness? One person at a time, by responding to their individual and unique needs. How do you measure progress? Again, one person at a time. From a 100-bed shelter and in three short months of operations, we’ve already helped a number of guests find homes.
Family is a major pillar of the Thanksgiving celebration. Working with partners in the community, we were excited to reunite one of the shelter stayers with his family. To reunite a family that has experienced crisis and homelessness is a source of inspiration to our own Compass Housing Alliance family: our staff, our supporters and the many clients we work with throughout the year. We also take pride in helping people find stability while staying with their partners or pets. Whatever shape families take, we are honored to help them on their journey to permanent homes.
The transformation of Seattle’s homelessness crisis is founded in an ongoing drive to innovate, collaborate and partner across sectors. It’s a role in which Compass Housing Alliance continues to take bold and courageous steps toward smarter solutions. Seattle, once again, will be leading the charge, serving as the model and the blueprint to successfully address homelessness. We will be the city that other cities look to. I’m confident of it and I’m grateful to be a part of it.
Most of all, I am thankful for you, our community who offer their time, gifts, and donations, and for our partners who strengthen our programs in so many ways. Together, we make strides toward our vision of a world where everyone lives in a safe, caring community.
Executive Director, Compass Housing Alliance
P.S. please remember our residents as you shop the holiday sales this weekend. To learn more, click here. To make a gratitude gift in support of our work, please visit our online giving page, here.
By Brett Renville, documentary filmmaker and guest blogger for Compass Housing Alliance
Back in October, I started to follow the journey of Brillian and Dion, two brothers who left the streets of Seattle to become residents at Compass at First Presbyterian, an enhanced, 24/7 shelter. As a documentary filmmaker, I was drawn to their story, one that has become increasingly, and tragically, common in our city. They were working hard, trying to get on their feet and find a place to call home, all against the overwhelming challenges of Seattle’s affordable housing crunch.
I sat down with Brillian and he told me about his new job at Denny’s, his hope to live the American dream, the struggles of being homeless. He also talked about his love for music and his desire to be a musician. Then, suddenly he did something unexpected. He started singing a Kanye West song.
It was stunning, and I even felt a little awkward at first. But that was over in a moment, and it quickly felt good and natural. I thought, “He is really singing to us in the middle of an on-camera interview.” This marks the first time in my 13 years of shooting documentary films that a subject has ever burst out singing during an interview!
Confidence and Aspirations
As a salsa dancer, who has been performing for a couple of years, I had a few more thoughts cross my mind when Brillian started singing. Thoughts that reminded me of myself. First of all, Brillian was singing to a couple of strangers! When I perform, I still get nervous when people watch me. Brillian not only lacked nervousness but he had confidence too. He knew he was good. He has the confidence I wish I had, the confidence I still struggle finding as a dancer.
What amazed me most was this was all coming from a 24-year-old homeless man struggling to survive in this city. For me this really humanized this homelessness crisis. Homeless people are just like you and me. They have stories and aspirations we all can relate to.
About Brett Renville: Brett Renville is a documentary and commercial Cinematographer and Director, based in Seattle, WA. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Brett developed a love for the natural world, and in his work, transferring the essence of a subject – be it human, of the animal variety, the environment, or a simple moment in time – is Brett’s passion and craft; drawing meaningful stories into focus through the lens of the camera. For more info about Brett please visit: brettrenville.com