Five years ago, a group of citizens came together and created the Snoqualmie Valley’s first shelter for the homeless. The seasonal and travelling Snoqualmie Valley Winter Shelter has been hosted by churches in North Bend, where it started, Snoqualmie and Fall City, staffed by local volunteers and with the assistance, training and financial management of the Bellevue-based Congregations for the Homeless.
That shelter is about to evolve again.
At a meeting of community leaders held June 13 in Snoqualmie, shelter director Jennifer Kirk announced that the Snoqualmie Valley Winter Shelter and Day Center were getting a new name and new financial structure. The organization has created a new nonprofit, Snoqualmie Valley Shelter Services, and expects it will attain its federal 501(c)(3) status some time this fall.
“We are a grass-roots organization, created in 2012 and made up of community members who have a passion for helping our homeless population connect with the care and services they need. We believe deeply in the power of relationships and work to meet people exactly where they are,” Kirk told the group.
The name is not the only change, although Kirk emphasized that Snoqualmie Valley Shelter Services will continue to operate both the November-to-March shelter program, as well as the year-round Day Center, located at the American Legion Hall in Snoqualmie. Both provide resources and information on assistance for area homeless people, in addition to food and shelter.
The new organization will also work toward implementing the Housing First model, developed by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Housing First, Kirk explained, focuses on providing support to people, not just before they find permanent housing, but also after they are housed, to ensure they can continue building stable lives for themselves and their families. The typical housing readiness cycle, she noted, has many failure points and provides little support to people maintain what they’ve built once they are in homes.
Changes such as Housing First are part of the reason the local shelter is departing from Congregations for the Homeless, Kirk said. Others include clearing up confusion about the two organizations and the financial structure. Congregations for the Homeless operated a men’s-only shelter in Bellevue, which confused some people looking to support the Valley’s low-barrier shelter for men, women and families. Also, the organization provided payroll services and staff training to the local shelter, but the two organizations did not combine or share any funds.
Funding is a critical issue for the Snoqualmie Valley shelter, which closed early this year due to a budget shortfall. Additionally, “the Day Center is entirely volunteer operated right now,” Kirk said, for the same reason.
Operating the shelter, she said, costs about $20,000 per month. The Day Center, open only a few days each week, takes another $1,000 per month.
Under the new organization and with a more local focus, Kirk said the organization hopes to find the support and generosity in the community to continue operations with the potential to eventually establish a permanent shelter for the Valley’s homeless population.
And that’s who most of the people using the shelter in the winter months are, local residents.
Of the 111 people who used the shelter last season, 80 percent were local — 45 percent came from North Bend, 17 percent from Snoqualmie, 13 percent from Fall City or Preston and 5 percent from Carnation or Duvall.
In the last point-in-time census of the homeless in King County, called “Count Us In” and conducted by All Home in January, the Snoqualmie Valley population was included for the first time. More than 11,000 people were homeless in King County, and 89 of them were right here in the Valley.
“These people have lived here their whole lives, or for many years,” Kirk said. “They want to stay here.”
More information about Snoqualmie Valley Shelter Services will be provided in the coming months.
To learn more, visit http://www.valleyrenewalcenter.com.