Federal Way’s first-ever short-term shelter for homeless families opened last week, and just like its namesake, the Pete Andersen FUSION Family Center is a big deal.
Local nonprofit FUSION celebrated the ribbon cutting, hosted by the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, for the building on Oct. 8.
With 90 beds available in 29 rooms, the new shelter is expected to serve 116 families a year, or 406 individuals, with more than 250 of those anticipated to be children. The first families are expected to move in around mid-November.
Founded in 1993, FUSION works to help families experiencing homelessness transition into permanent housing. To date, FUSION owns and manages 21 transitional housing units in the Tacoma and Federal Way areas.
The Pete Andersen FUSION Family Center, formerly the site of an old and shabby hotel, underwent a transformation to become a place of hope and healing.
“This is such an exciting day for FUSION,” said Executive Director Robin O’Grady.
For 28 years, FUSION has helped hundreds of families go from homelessness and hopelessness to healing and self-sufficiency, O’Grady told the physically-distanced crowd on Oct. 8.
Along with safe emergency accommodations, the family center also offers individualized support, access to case management, employment development resources and after-school activities for children. The wrap-around services allow families to progress on the path toward permanent housing, employment and self-sufficiency, O’Grady said.
The project was completed with the help of a $1 million donation from the Lennar Foundation on behalf of former Lennar Homes associate Pete Andersen, who died from COVID-19 in March.
The new shelter is essentially “our hearts in the form of a building,” said Julie Siegler, FUSION board member and marketing director of Lennar Homes.
Andersen, 43, worked for Lennar Homes for seven years and was known by everyone at Lennar as “The Big Deal” because he was a big deal, Siegler said. He was funny, liked square dancing and was known for his big smile and his heart of gold, she said.
Andersen was one of the first people in the country to become diagnosed with COVID-19, and became the third person in the United States to die from the disease, she said.
“We didn’t get to say goodbye,” she said. “Because that may be one of the saddest parts of this illness, is the alone-ness.”
Andersen was a supporter of Lennar’s Focused Acts of Caring, which gives back to local communities. When Lennar learned of the FUSION shelter project, Lennar — and Andersen — wanted to be part of it.
Once the Lennar Foundation, a separate entity from the company, found out about the project and Andersen’s support, the foundation decided to donate $1 million to the shelter in honor of The Big Deal.
“We saw early on the vision [how] it would help those families with children get back on their feet,” said Siegler, glancing at the building. “This is a place of hope.”
Andersen’s mother, wife and their three children were in attendance of the event as honored guests.
Several residents were honored for their contributions to the project, along with words spoken by former Washington State House Speaker Frank Chopp, State Sen. Claire Wilson, King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, and Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell.
For more information about the shelter and its resources, visit FUSIONfederalway.org