December 11, 2013
Vol: 20 No: 50


Organizers of new Kent day center say it’s the first step toward a permanent shelter

by: Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

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Every night in Kent, a couple dozen women and children spend the night in a shelter at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. Come morning, they have few places to go — until now.

KentHOPE and Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission are opening a day center with a computer lab and showers that will serve these families and other homeless women and children in Kent.

This center, located at 9009 Canyon Dr. on Kent’s East Hill, marks one of the first successes in a joint effort by KentHOPE, a two-year-old nonprofit agency, and Union Gospel Mission to expand services for homeless people in Kent. Three times since 2012, the organizations have tried and failed to acquire a building to open a 24-hour shelter and day center for single adult women and men.

Discouraged and anxious to do something for Kent’s homeless population, the group worked with Union Gospel Mission to acquire a house and start the day center for women and children.

“This is not our goal; this is a step toward our goal,” KentHOPE chair Pat Gray said.

Terry Pallas, who is leading the effort for Union Gospel Mission, hopes to have a 24-hour shelter open within a year.

“I don’t want the winter of 2014 to come without us having a permanent shelter there,” he said.

KentHOPE and the Union Gospel Mission are hosting an open house for the new center Dec. 14 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Located in a split-level residential home a mile and a half from Kent-Meridian High School, the center will provide three hot meals daily, a computer lab staffed by volunteers, showers and laundry facilities. The center will offer afterschool tutoring and classes in home economics. Union Gospel Mission will provide a shuttle to take women from the shelter at Holy Spirit Catholic Church to the day center each morning.

Union Gospel Mission already owned the building, which was on the same property as an apartment building that houses women in an addiction recovery program. The home has been converted to support up to 25 families a day, with help from volunteers.

Because Union Gospel Mission already had a site for the day center, it was not subjected to the public opposition that quashed earlier proposals. Community opposition stymied plans to build a 24-hour shelter three times already, Gray said.

The Kent City Council rejected a proposal to house a shelter in a vacant city-owned building near Kent’s downtown in 2012 after hearing from business owners and residents who feared that the shelter would attract homeless people from outside the city. Twice this year private landowners declined to lease buildings to KentHOPE. 

After three failures, KentHOPE reached a low point, Gray said, and needed to accomplish something to serve the homeless population.

“We want people to see that we are not stagnant, that we are moving ahead and that we are still there,” she said.

In January, volunteers with the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness counted more than 50 people sleeping outdoors in Kent. Gray said that figure is low because KentHOPE serves meals to 60 to 70 homeless people each week at meals hosted at local churches.



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