FUSION: Providing transitional housing for families for 25 years and counting

On Aug. 1, FUSION will host its annual summer arts gala and fundraiser at Dumas Bay Centre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road. The annual event — featuring local artists, silent auctions, fabulous food, entertainment and more — often raises more than $100,000 to go toward the organization’s operating funds.

Since 1993, FUSION has been recognized as an innovative leader in providing transitional housing and support for homeless families in the Federal Way area.

FUSION has developed a process that helps families improve their lives with housing and social services. FUSION’s grant-winning housing and family-centered focus continue to evolve, even as the rate of homelessness continues to rise in Washington state.

FUSION is 100-percent staffed by volunteers. The non-profit organization maintains 20 fully furnished housing units along with a deep history of helping hundreds of working homeless families become self-sufficient. FUSION reports an 86 percent success rate of helping homeless families move into permanent housing.

In addition to transitional housing, families also receive professional case management. Services include family counseling, job training, educational opportunities, financial management, employment, health services and funds for children to participate in athletics, the arts and camps.

FUSION relies on funding from local businesses, government grants and citizen groups who provide financial and in-kind support. It costs more than $12,000 a year to provide a home and support services for each family FUSION serves.

Recently, FUSION received a $500,000 capital grant from the state that will support capital needs for the FUSION boutique, a retail upscale furniture store, 1108 S. 322nd Place. The boutique sells gently used donated home furnishings.

In 2015, FUSION founder Peggy LaPorte was honored with the Washingtonian of the Year Award. The award is presented annually to people who have demonstrated leadership, selflessness, generosity and compassion in their service to others.

Arts for a cause

On Aug. 1, FUSION will be celebrating 25 years of community service with its annual gala fundraiser at Dumas Bay Centre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road. The annual event — featuring local artists, silent auctions, fabulous food, entertainment and more — often raises more than $100,000 to go toward the organization’s operating funds.

Purchase tickets for the gala online at https://fusion.ejoinme.org/2018_Registration. To learn more, volunteer or donate, visit fusionfederalway.org. Contact: 253-874-1257 or info@fusionfederalway.org.

The annual event helps support people like Tanzania Stewart.

Stewart, 19, was living on the streets in Seattle when she was connected with the Federal Way Day Center through the state’s Department of Health and Social Services.

She got a job at the day center through a program called Career Path Services. The center connected Stewart with FUSION, which provided her and her 1-year-old son with transitional housing a few days before Christmas 2017.

Stewart said she was overcome with emotion when she moved into her new home.

“By the time we got there, them opening the door and us walking in there, I cried,” she said. “They had a big gift basket on the table and gifts for my son. I felt like I just finally accomplished something.”

MORE SUCCESS STORIES

Editor’s note: The Federal Way Mirror has covered FUSION’s successes over the years. Below are excerpts from two stories in the Mirror’s archives — one from July 25, 2008, and one from July 26, 2012 — that exemplify FUSION’s ongoing mission.

Tamia’s story

Tamia, of Federal Way, had romantic visions of what marriage would be like when she wed at the age of 19.

And then the violence started.

Several years later, Tamia found herself a homeless single mother after leaving an abusive relationship. She was financially broke and her credit and rental history was ruined. She stayed with relatives for a while. And then there was transitional housing.

But there was nowhere that could be called home until just a few months ago.

Tamia, who chose to be identified by a fictional name because she fears her ex-husband will find her, recently moved into a Federal Way-area condo provided by FUSION.

At the age of 27, she and her daughter began to get their lives back on track. Tamia graduated from college and began paying off her debts. Her daughter now had a safe and stable place to call home.

“It’s really fulfilling for me also to see that she’s happy where she lives,” Tamia said.

Tamia is building rental history with FUSION. Her monthly program service fee is based on her income so she can save money and rebuild her credit. FUSION will allow her to stay in the condo for up to 15 months until she becomes self-sufficient. Perhaps most importantly, Tamia knows she and her daughter are safe. Her ex-husband doesn’t know where to find them and they are living in a safe neighborhood.

“It is so nice. It was so comforting after roaming around the past several months looking for somewhere to live,” Tamia said.

The FUSION condo is set up with everything Tamia and her daughter might need. Paintings hang on the walls, there are dishes in the cupboards and a vacuum cleaner. A bedroom is equipped with age-appropriate toys for Tamia’s daughter.

“Even the cupboards were full of food,” Tamia said. “They took care of everything.”

Brittany’s story

By the end of December 2011, Brittany and her 3-year-old son were homeless.

She had never been homeless before, and finding shelter was a daily chore. On two nights, Brittany and the child slept in her car.

In the shelters, she stayed on guard while sharing close quarters with strangers and shady people. A prison record kept her from finding stable housing.

“I must have filled out 200 applications,” said Brittany, 23, who asked that her last name be withheld. “I felt like I was going to be stuck for a while.”

She was released from prison in 2010, following an 18-month sentence for non-violent drug and gun charges. Brittany vowed to change her reckless ways and get her life back together for the sake of her son.

The stability she sought was short-lived. Brittany ended up in an environment rife with domestic violence, and her life spiraled into homelessness.

Through state assistance, the pieces began coming together as Brittany launched the long journey toward self-sufficient living. She entered a pre-apprenticeship program, joined the ironworkers union, and began learning a trade.

In May 2012, Brittany and her son moved into a FUSION housing unit in Federal Way. After the first night in their home, Brittany and her son fixed breakfast when they woke up. The stress of finding a place to sleep had disappeared.

“I’ve seen him relax over the last few months,” she said of her son, “and I’m able to fix dinner at night.”

After nearly six months of rough living, the FUSION home has lifted a burden off Brittany and her son. It’s a sharp contrast from the crowded and unpredictable homeless shelters.

“I have this mentality to keep on moving forward,” she said. “I believe I really beat the odds of where I was supposed to be.”

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