United Way, Lake City Partners Find Housing for the Holidays
Walter Washington grew up in South Seattle as gentrification–real estate development’s euphemism for displacement–left many of his neighbors struggling to keep their homes and to maintain their livelihoods. Fortunately, his family was financially stable, and that stability enabled Washington to go on to graduate from college and ultimately give back to his city. Currently, he is the director of Lake City Partners Ending Homelessness.
Many of his neighbors, however, weren’t so fortunate. Some went on to experience homelessness themselves. Washington still wonders why more wasn’t done to assist them back then.
“It’s hard when I come in contact with people that I went to school with in fifth and sixth grade, and they are in need of resources,” said Washington, a former team manager at United Way who became director at Lake City Partners in October. “I see their need and know that if we could have helped them earlier, we could have prevented that. But certainly, we can help them even in their current state.”
Tasked with running a program that helps Seattle residents transition from homelessness to permanent housing, Washington is partnering with several agencies, including United Way of King County, to help get people off the streets and into permanent housing. He presides over one of the area’s newest facilities for people experiencing homelessness–Lake City Partners’ North King County Enhanced Shelter. Since opening in April, the 61-bed complex in Shoreline has provided round-the-clock housing services and outreach. It is intended to be open year-round. It even has a place for pets.
The shelter was once a convalescent home and through the years it has gone through several iterations and name changes. Google it, and you will come up with Oaks at Forest Bay Nursing Home, Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Arden, or Arden Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center. The City of Shoreline, Lake City Partners, and King County officials acquired the facility in 2020 and transformed it into a 24/7 shelter. Each of the shelter’s 61 rooms is equipped with bathrooms, making it ideal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
United Way of King County is working to help fill some of the shelter’s beds before the year ends. United Way is partnering with the City of Seattle, Lake City Partners, and two additional organizations to use approximately about $125,000 of federal funding to house up to 40 people experiencing homelessness. The housing efforts are part of United Way’s Streets to Home program, which works with people experiencing homelessness to set them on a path of upward mobility by quickly getting them into housing and connecting them with employers.
In addition to providing housing and services to people at Lake City Partners, Streets to Home will serve people at Evergreen Treatment Services (a Seattle-based medication treatment facility) and Interaction Transition (a Seattle-based nonprofit that assists formerly incarcerated individuals in re-entry). Federal funding will be spread over the three facilities to ensure housing before December 31, 2021.
Lake City Partners was formed by the Lake City Taskforce on Homelessness, which in 2005 coalesced homelessness advocates, areas residents, members of the faith community, and people experiencing homelessness to work together to solve the crisis with care and compassion. The Shoreline facility, whose residents refer to it as the Oaks, culminates Lake City Partners’ efforts to pare down the number of people experiencing homelessness in North Seattle and Shoreline.
“We have five case managers who are actively helping folks move into their own housing, and that’s the magic of it all,” said Walter Washington about the Oaks. “It’s 24-hour programming and a whole lot of love and care.”
It’s 24-hour programming and a whole lot of love and care.Walter Washington
Among the first people to leave the Oaks into permanent housing was a couple expecting a child. Their baby was born just before they moved into their new home. “We helped them move into the Oaks, they got stable, they grew their family, and now they are moving into their own place,” Washington said, “right in time for the holidays.”
Washington said many people seeking shelter at the Oaks are experiencing chronic homelessness, and he aims to do what’s necessary to ensure that they don’t fall back into homelessness. “The first step is stabilization, which means we get them an ID, emotional support, and treatment with the guarantee of a bed,” Washington said. “Once we move past that stage, we give them everything they need to move into a home.”
“It’s then a matter of finding out what’s the best community for folks,” Washington added, “It’s not about just having the keys. It’s about moving into a community. When they are here, they’re experiencing community. We want them to leave here and into another community.”