Tanzania Stewart knows firsthand the impact the Federal Way Day Center has on people.
The 19-year-old was living on the streets in Seattle when she was connected with the 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 (Friends United to Shelter the Indigent, Oppressed and Needy), which provided her and her 1-year-old son with transitional housing a few days before Christmas.
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.”
In its first year of operation, the Federal Way Day Center, which provides a place for homeless men and women to shower, do laundry and connect with resources, has served more than 1,000 clients.
The number of people served is higher than anticipated, said Lisa Christen, program director for Catholic Community Services, which operates the center, 33505 13th Place S.
“We went in not knowing what to expect,” Christen said. “We knew there was a need. We didn’t know how great of a need there would be.”
The day center opened Dec. 5, 2016. It will celebrate its first anniversary from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18, at the St. Vincent de Paul Church Social Hall, 20525 Eighth Ave. S. The community is invited to attend and hear about the center’s growth, accomplishments and successes.
The center opened after several years of planning and fundraising by the Federal Way Day Center Coalition, which identified the need for a day shelter or hygiene center in the community. In November 2014, city officials committed to getting a day center running, and in October 2015, the City Council allocated $100,000 for the center’s operations, including $50,000 for startup costs.
“This is just a great example of helping people transition from a desperate situation of homelessness to a position where they can get housing and services,” Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell said of the day center. “It is that reminder of people’s fundamental needs.”
The center is a partnership between a variety of organizations, including St. Vincent de Paul, Sound Alliance, Catholic Community Services, Reach Out, the Federal Way Community Caregiving Network, Valley Cities Counseling, Multi-Service Center and community churches.
“It is a real accomplishment for this community,” Ferrell said. “It speaks volumes of the generosity and loving spirit of this community.”
Much of the efforts in the day center’s first year focused on building relationships with clients and the community, Christen said.
“We are referring to it as a trust-building year,” she said. “We were really able to build trust with our clients.”
Many of the people the day center serves aren’t used to having a place they feel welcome, Christen said.
The day center provides people with hope, Stewart said.
“They don’t have nowhere they can just come and chill and just feel safe,” she said. “That’s what it does for a lot of the clients that we do have here. It makes them feel like ‘I do have somewhere that’s welcome. I do have somewhere I can actually just go throughout the day.’”
In 2017, the day center served 1,031 people – 665 men and 362 women – and had an average of 40 visitors a day. It provided 4,263 showers and 1,580 loads of laundry. A large number of the people who visit identify as living in Federal Way, Christen said.
The center also offers mental health and chemical dependency counselors, discounted bus passes through ORCA LIFT, a mobile medical van once a month, a community health nurse each week and connections with employment opportunities.
In 2017, the center housed 59 people in shelters, found permanent housing for 35 individuals, and 33 clients reported increased income.
The center, which is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, would like to expand its hours, preferably to 24-7, but that is dependent on funding and staffing, Christen said.
Funding comes from a variety of sources, including the city, state, private donations, local churches and grants.
The center can always use monetary donations, as well as items including toiletries such as razors, and food items, such as cereal and milk, Christen said.
Items can be dropped off during the center’s operating hours.
“People are more than welcome to come by and get a walk-through tour any time we are open,” Christen said.
Stewart encouraged people to check out the day center.
“We help people,” she said. “We are looking for more people to help. We are looking for people to really just come and check us out and see what we are about. We are friendly. We don’t bite. We really just want any type of resources, anything we can get, anything that is beneficial, that would actually help others.”
For more information about the day center, visit fwdaycenter.wixsite.com/fwdaycenter. To donate to the Federal Way Day Center, send checks to P.O. Box 4154, Federal Way, WA 98063 or donate through Catholic Community Services with a note that it should go toward the day center.