News

Shelter service calls on local churches

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

Tents, automobiles and park benches are where some now reside, but by 2009, homeless single men in Federal Way could have the opportunity to sleep in a safe environment.

Reach Out, a project that could bring a homeless shelter for single men over age 18 to Federal Way by year’s end, will be discussed at an informational meeting 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at Calvary Lutheran Church, 2415 S. 320th St.

A group of Federal Way church-goers invites residents and local churches to attend.

“We know we have homeless folks on the streets and most of them are singles,” said Willa Gaines, member of the Reach Out Site Operations Committee.

For more than a year, the group has worked on the project, meeting with board members from Kent’s Catholic Community Services as well as HOME, an overnight shelter for homeless men over age 18, Gaines said. The committee has also learned about another homeless shelter in Renton, called ARISE, she said. The Federal Way shelter will be fashioned after these establishments.

“We know it’s worked in other communities and we want it to work here,” Reach Out supporter Nancy Jaenicke said.

The Reach Out shelter cannot be offered in Federal Way without the help of local churches. The group hopes to attract 12 to 24 faith-based organizations, which will take turns serving as a shelter and providing food for homeless single men. Churches wishing to participate in the program must be on a bus line so the men can easily access the service, Gaines said.

The goal of the program is to provide the men with a safe place to sleep at night, Gaines said. Today, many of the homeless population in the city spend the day worrying about where they will sleep and eat that night, she said. The mobile shelter service will allow them to instead spend their days looking for employment and connecting with other human services so they may improve their lives, Gaines said.

“They have kind of given up hope, and this project would ask them to have some hope,” Gaines said.

The men will be required to pass a screening before they are allowed to stay in the mobile shelter, Gaines said. They will remain overnight at one church for approximately one month before they are given a map and instructions on how to locate the church next serving as a shelter, she said. Their personal belongings will be kept in a trailer, which will be transported among each location so the men will always have their blankets or other possessions accessible to them, Gaines said.

“This concept is really workable. We just need the churches to help us,” Jaenicke said.

The program is intended to benefit the portion of Federal Way’s homeless population that is not currently served, Jaenicke said. Organizations such as the Multi-Service Center, FUSION, South Sound Dream Center and Joseph Foundation offer services to families, but singles need a place to get assistance as well, she said.

“We have programs for the families and now we need something for the individuals that don’t have families,” Jaenicke said.

Reach Out committee members realize the single homeless population includes women, she said. When the Reach Out committee began meeting, the group thought a place for women was under way, but the service has yet to emerge, Gaines said.

“This is just one step in what we hope to do to have really good service for these people that are needy,” Gaines said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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The annual One Night Count of the homeless throughout King County took place Jan. 26. In Federal Way, 90 people were counted. Of these, 33 were found in vehicles, 35 in structures, seven under roadways, two in undergrowth, one each at bus stops and alleys, seven walking around the city and four in other places, according to a summary of the 2008 count conducted by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.

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