After reaching its first goal of providing temporary shelter for homeless families in Federal Way, the city’s Homeless Mothers and Children Initiative hopes to expand its reach.
At an HMCI meeting on Wednesday, Mayor Jim Ferrell said he plans to create a larger task force to address the issue of homelessness in the city.
“We are going to take HMCI to the next level,” Ferrell said. “We are not going to be focused just on HMCI. I think it is about time to move this, to take this up a step.”
Ferrell created HMCI, which is co-chaired by Deputy Mayor Susan Honda and community member Sharry Edwards, last January.
“What was immediately in front of us, and what immediately needed to get addressed, was the homeless mothers and children,” Ferrell said during Wednesday’s meeting.
On Jan. 17, New Hope Christian Fellowship, 31411 Sixth Ave. S., began providing an overnight shelter for homeless families, which is open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. each night through the end of March.
HMCI coalition members have been in talks with Mary’s Place, which operates day and overnight shelters in Seattle and King County, about opening a permanent shelter for families in the city.
With a shelter in a place, at least temporarily, it is time to turn the focus to the larger issue of homelessness, Ferrell said.
“What we absolutely must do is have a comprehensive approach to the multi-layered issue of homelessness,” he said. “It is not just opioid (use). It is mental health issues. It is veterans. There’s multiple components. That is where we are going to go next.”
Ferrell said he plans to meet with members of HMCI in the next few weeks to come up with the next steps in forming a task force.
Shelter needs volunteers
In its first two weeks in operation, the shelter at New Hope has housed at least two families a night, New Hope pastor Rick Miller said. One night there were three families, he said.
Those who have used the shelter have been grateful, Miller said. He told a story at the HMCI meeting about a girl who stayed in the shelter with her mother and was terrified her first night there.
“The next day her daughter came over to my wife and said ‘thank you. I felt like I was with family,’ ” Miller said.
The shelter provides families with a sense of normalcy, Miller said.
“One of the families right now has three kids,” Miller said. “They are thrilled to be inside and be able to tease the cook and to make fun of each other and have a normal time. The mom has been very pleased they have been continuing to go to school, and they haven’t missed a lick of anything so far.”
Before opening the overnight services, New Hope provided an emergency shelter for men and women during inclement weather, as well as showers, laundry services and meal outreach for the homeless during the week, which it continues to do.
Miller said he would like to have the shelter open year-round.
“If we can put into place proper funding, we will, next winter, 2018-19, be open the full six months (September to March), and then 2019-20 we will be open all year round,” he said. “That is our goal, a step at a time, but it takes lots of volunteers and takes a bunch of money.”
New Hope can house 12 families overnight in its dining hall and has capacity to have 10 families in its sanctuary and another eight in its chapel.
In order to do that, Miller said, more volunteers are needed. For each building New Hope has families in, there have to be two people on fire watch at all times. The shelter needs at least six volunteers each night, two for each shift. Shifts run from 7 to 11 p.m., 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. and 3 to 8 a.m.
New Hope can also use donations of toiletry items and new socks and underwear.
“We have enough towels,” Miller said. “We have washcloths for the showers, but it is those things, those hygiene products that make a difference. You can see a mom’s face light up when it’s the right things, and she can make use of that.”
For a volunteer application or to donate to New Hope, visit nh-cf.org.