It was 1990 when I came to Seattle from Chocolate City Washington, D.C., and saw a crowd of kids and families, young and old, in front of the King County Courthouse park. I hadn’t seen anything like it. I am an Air Force brat; we lived on bases and didn’t know anything about homelessness. So I thought the people were out there partying. I like to party, so I walked up to the group and asked what was going on. A woman told me they were not partying; they were homeless. I didn’t know anything about homelessness then, but that day I went home and went to work, starting on a path of working for homeless people. In 2007, I was inspired by the verse Romans 8:28 and came up with the idea for The Greatest Love Homeless Ministry, a facility for the homeless of Seattle.
My vision for The Greatest Love Homeless Ministry is for it to be a 1,238-bed facility made up of duplexes, a theater, a children’s center and seven office buildings. All of the structures will be made out of logs because, as a child traveling the country with my Air Force dad, I would see beautiful log cabins on our drives. Log cabins change color when it rains, going from lighter to darker reds. I wanted a log cabin. Now, everything I couldn’t have I want for the homeless people. The log duplexes will have washers, dryers and will be two to three bedrooms. The seven offices will have mental health services and hepatitis C treatment for the residents. The facility will be run by the community of residents. Residents can work in the cafeteria, use their skills to keep up the grounds and train other residents in areas of their expertise. The Greatest Love Homeless Ministry will also use alternative energy, like solar panels. Grants and donations to the Keep Donation Box, located in the main office and available for free-will donations any time, will fund the facility.
Right now, I have a spreadsheet full of entries of unoccupied government land available for housing. I want to use that land for the ministry. If it’s owned by the community, then the community can’t be kicked out. And once the facility is built outside of Seattle, the name will change from The Greatest Love Homeless Ministry to The Greatest Love Reasonable Housing Ministry. That word “homeless” will be left in downtown Seattle.
What makes The Greatest Love different from the plans of Seattle City Hall is that it will be based on my discussions with homeless people. I don’t do anything but talk to all the homeless people. I’ve stayed all night with them, under bridges, on the streets. I’ve slept on mattresses with no pillows and they’ve shown me all the places I can eat and use the restroom. Our facility will have a large cafeteria that’s open all hours and each duplex will have its own bathroom. The theater will be so large that residents can host concerts or stand on the stage and share their stories. The cover sheet for my grant proposals have this Bible verse, “For I was hungry and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in.” That’s what this facility will provide.
But first, we’ve got to have the land, big enough for the facility and near public transportation.
Sharon Jones is a Real Change Vendor who sells at Top Pot Doughnuts on Fifth Avenue. She was Vendor of the Year in 2012.
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