Rosie was a victim of domestic violence for many years. She and her youngest son, Paco, have been homeless off and on since he was four months old. Mary's Place − a temporary shelter where homeless women and families can reclaim their lives through nourishment, resources, healing and hope − helped them find shelter and ensures that Paco gets to the preschool he loves.
There are more than 5,100 homeless families in King County. They may wait weeks to find beds in shelters – and while they wait, they sleep in cars and doorways. Mary's Place in South Lake Union is a nonprofit organization that believes emergency shelter is a critical piece of the crisis response system that keeps people alive today while they work to secure jobs and housing tomorrow. In 2012, Mary's Place provided 7,000 bed nights to homeless families; by 2013, that figure mushroomed to 20,000 bed nights.
In early 2014, the City of Seattle responded to the local explosion in homelessness by awarding Mary's Place a $200,000 grant to open Bianca's Place. This newest crisis response shelter opened in May in a formerly vacant building in the Cascade neighborhood of South Lake Union. Owned by PEMCO Insurance, it is leased to Mary's Place rent-free for 18 months.
Bianca's Place is breaking new ground by opening their doors to two-parent families, families with disabled children and homeless fathers with children − all at the same location.
Mary's Place also provides shelter at three other locations, including:
• A Rotating Night Shelter that houses 14 women and children each night, this shelter moves to 13 different faith communities, each congregation hosting one week per quarter, four weeks per year.
• Julia's Place Night Shelter, a permanent facility at Madrona Grace Church, where five intact families (mothers, fathers, and children) stay each night while waiting for permanent housing.
• The Emergency Family Shelter, a partnership between Mary's Place and Seattle's Union Gospel Mission. The EFS shelters up to 48 women and children waiting to be referred to a longer-term night shelter.
Meeting Needs Beyond Sheltering
Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary's Place, said that the South Lake Community has really opened its arms to the homeless families and mission of her organization.
"We have been touched by the hospitality shown to our families by the SLU community since we opened Bianca's Place," she said. "Business and corporations have shared their professional skills, families come bringing meals, students come to tutor, and congregations come with carloads of diapers, cereals and sheets. We've been invited to the Center for Wooden Boats, joined in potlucks and outdoor movies with the Cascade Peoples Center and participated in the SLU Art Walk. The Seattle police department has remarked that Bianca's Place families have helped make the neighborhood a safer place through their presence and playing in the park."
When asked what homeless families need aside from housing, Hartman said the most important things they need are safety, acceptance and a sense of belonging.
She said, "It is our volunteers that bring the help and healing inside − their ability to sit beside our families, hear their stories and offer encouragement reminds them that homelessness is just a season of their lives and they will get into housing. The SLU community has made sure that our moms, dads and kids are fed, warm, loved and hopeful."
Learn more about Mary's Place and its various shelters and programs at www.marysplaceseattle.org.