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Federal Way homeless shelters brace for another winter
A woman named Nancy once lived in the woods with her husband, Kevin, for 13 and a half years.
Today, Nancy and Kevin have sobriety, an income and an apartment of their own. They turned their lives around after finding support through New Hope Christian Fellowship.
"All we did was direct her to resources," said Rick Miller, New Hope's outreach director. "It was being the hub in the wheel that helped them get secured."
New Hope, 31411 6th Ave. S., serves as a severe weather shelter and a screening station for clients of Reach Out Federal Way. The church also provides hot meals, hot showers, dry clothing, laundry service and computer access at least once a week to those in need.
When helping Federal Way's homeless, Rick and Eileen Miller compare their efforts to directing traffic, leading people to a place where they can make a better choice. However, it's the cold and wet winters that make New Hope, and other shelters like it, a necessity in Federal Way.
"Winter is devastating to some of these people," Miller said, grateful to know that New Hope's assistance is appreciated. "Many of the people we serve end up coming back and helping at the shelter."
One of those clients is Mark Hoyt, who has volunteered the past three years, ever since the shelter gave him a warm place to stay. Before, he slept in the woods with a tarp, sleeping bag and no tent.
"They were helping me out. I'm going to give back," said Hoyt, who is now the assistant facilities manager and site resource manager. "They accept you for who you are. They let you be who you are."
Some clients suffer from severe mental illness and end up at New Hope after their release from Western State Hospital. Miller recalled a man who spent a week at the shelter during the winter of 2010. The man believed he was Queen Victoria from Amsterdam. New Hope found a way to accommodate the man until the weather warmed a bit and he moved on.
Those who help the homeless know that it truly takes a village, and that volunteers are priceless. The effort takes an emotional toll on the Millers, especially when they've done all they can do — and can't connect the rest of the dots for someone. It's a never-ending mission to secure enough food and get the homeless people out of the cold.
"It bothers me that we can't have an all-year-round facility," said Eileen Miller, referring to financial limitations of the charity. "It hurts. It makes you cry."
Reach Out Federal Way
Reach Out homeless shelters opened for the winter season Nov. 1 in Federal Way. Reach Out provides shelter, meals and case management services to homeless adults at Federal Way churches during the cold winter months. The charity is a program of Catholic Community Services of King County.
On average, it costs Reach Out $22 to care for one person for one night.
Within the past year, King County has seen a 6 percent growth in homelessness with 48 percent of those experiencing homelessness in King County being families with children. For low-income families, any number of issues may precipitate becoming homeless – domestic violence, a health emergency, or a job loss.
How to help
The New Hope severe weather shelter is looking for donations of:
• Sleeping bags (3 season or summer use)
• Blankets (single bed and larger)
• Shirts (tees, button up, polo, sweat shirt, hoodies, etc.)
• Pants (blue jeans)
• Canned foods (soups, fruits, vegetables, meats, spaghetti sauce, etc.)
• Frozen foods
• Dry goods (creamer, coffee, sugar, pancake mix, biscuit mix, pasta noodles)
• To offer financial support, call (253) 269-6585.