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One Day Federal Way homeless walk Feb. 21 | Q&A with Reach Out's Nancy Jaenicke
The following is an interview with Nancy Jaenicke, program coordinator of Reach Out Federal Way winter homeless shelter.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 21, Advancing Leadership Youth is putting on a walk to benefit Federal Way's homeless through the Reach Out Federal Way organization.
The 5K walk will begin at Our Saviors Baptist Church, and wind through Federal Way, with pit stops at other facilities associated with Reach Out. The goal is 260 people, with a suggested donation to walk or sponsor a walker at $25, and an overall goal of raising approximately $5,000 for the shelter. Will you participate and help your neighbors? Can we count on you?
Q: Tell us a bit about Reach Out.
A: The men's shelter is experiencing our fourth winter shelter season and our new women's shelter opened on Dec. 26. God willing and funding available, winter shelters operate November through March each year. Since we are a charity organization that relies heavily on donations, if sufficient funds are not raised, the shelters may be forced to delay opening for the winter season.
Shelter clients are screened with a background check to ensure a safe environment is maintained. The shelter opens at 8:30 p.m. An overnight supervisor is on hand to make sure everything is safe and running smoothly. Meals are provided and much of our operation is handled through area volunteers. For example, daily hot meals are prepared by volunteers, who spend their personal time shopping for and preparing the food they deliver and personally serve to clients. Reach Out pays for the breakfast and lunch food. Overnight supervision and counselors contracted through Catholic Community Services is also provided to aid clients with relocation, housing, job training and job placement. Reach Out has a team of leaders who volunteer many hours managing aspects of the shelter program. For example, Willa Gaines coordinates with more than 25 area church partners who host and help recruit volunteers to feed clients and Laurie Fiorito serves as Reach Out's communications, including database and website coordination, and also process improvements.
Q: What does it cost?
A: For one night, it costs Reach Out about $20 per day to feed and shelter a homeless person. Compared to $90 a day in jail, or $555 a day in a psychiatric hospital, and $2,184 for a medical hospital, this is a real bargain.
Q: How has the organization done the past few years? How many people have you been able to help? (See attached measurement chart for detail)
A: We have helped over 150 men, more than 24 of which are veterans. The veterans are also provided with V.A. assistance. 30 men achieved stable housing and 32 have gotten jobs or training. After the winter months, our homeless men can transfer to year around Catholic Community Shelters located in Kent and/or Auburn where they continue to be linked to shelter services.
Q: What do you hope is accomplished at One Day Federal Way for the Homeless?
A: A critical priority is additional funds to help us achieve program sustainability. Being able to stay open every year is our chief concern. However, Federal Way is a very caring community and we simply could not operate without support from King County and City of Federal Way funds, over 28 churches and ever growing volunteers who are dedicated to helping our less fortunate community brothers and sisters. Any money raised will go toward sustainability of the programs throughout this and next season. The program costs about $10,000 a month for staffing professionals and covering other expenses. The whole goal of the program is to help men and women move to self-sufficiency. We believe in providing a "hand up, not a hand out." Reach Out is about helping people achieve a brighter future.
Q: What are others ways that people can get involved?
A: Just turning out for the fundraising events would be a great start. The fund-raising walk coming up on Feb. 21 is a great start. After that, there is also a family oriented roller-skating fundraiser on April 16 and a breakfast fundraiser on Oct. 12. If people want to volunteer with the program directly, we can use help maintaining our database, generating publicity and building awareness, as well as helping with fundraising.
Q: What have been your most rewarding experiences?
A: Just seeing people who may have given up get connected with services that can help them with housing and jobs is rewarding. Giving people tools they need to help them move forward takes a big stress off of them. It allows them to focus on possible next steps they can take to help themselves move forward. Offering shelter and services to women has been the most rewarding experience for me because women are particularly vulnerable. It is a sad statistic, but 83 percent of homeless women are victims of domestic violence, and 75 percent of those women have been victims of violent crimes like kidnap or rape. Just being able to help them feel safe and warm, watch them interact with each other, and help them move forward is such a blessing for them and all of us who are lucky enough to serve them.
Q: Any testimonies?
A: Yes, here are a few testimonies of people that Reach Out has been able to assist.
One particular gentleman and his family were living with his wife's family. So he moved out and came to the shelter to give them space. Through our case management support, he was able to get a job. A sponsor church was also able to provide he and and his family a rental house. Reuniting him with his family and giving a brighter future was possible through our unique partnership with area churches. He continued to propel forward and was able to secure a promotion. From there, he has received multiple additional promotions. He is now able to sustain himself and his family.
Another client that we have been able to assist had this to say: "The Reach Out Shelter gave me a place to get started in this area since my family didn't have a place for me. The shelter gave me a chance to connect with doctors, keep doctors appointments, connect with community resources and connect with church. Calvary Lutheran Church is an important part of my life."
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Some of the people who come to our program just feel hopeless. Reach Out tries to provide hope and a badly needed hand up. They have potential and our professional staff knows contacts and provides tools to help them realize they can have a better life. We believe in them and foster hope — which helps them get through their tough times. We all experience tough times. Our program is like a foster family that steps in to provide tools and help them figure out how to move forward.
Some people might have a stereotype about homeless people, but they might not connect with the real person. Some may judge by outward appearance, yet not take the time to actually get to know them and learn more about their situation. Getting to know them and believing in them can make a big difference in their lives. It is also very rewarding. •
How to help
To help Reach Out continue to do amazing work in your community, come out and support Reach Out on Feb. 21 as Advancing Leadership Youth puts on One Day Federal Way for the Homeless. A 5K walk will start with a rally at 10 a.m. at Our Saviors Baptist (701 S. 320th St.), and conclude around 3 p.m. To sign up, look for fliers in your community or find the event online at www.eventbrite.com. Also visit www.reachoutfw.org. The money raised will go toward sustaining the shelter's operations and possibly help aid more people in need.