St. Vincent parishioners working to open homeless day shelter

  • Written by Nathan Whalen
  • Published in Local
Organizers of the homeless day shelter in Federal Way are distributing “non-event” invitations that seek donations for the project. Photo: Jean Parietti Organizers of the homeless day shelter in Federal Way are distributing “non-event” invitations that seek donations for the project. Photo: Jean Parietti

FEDERAL WAY – A day shelter for the homeless — an idea that began three years ago with parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul Parish — is nearing reality.

Federal Way organizations already offer free community meals six days a week, a place to shower once a week and overnight shelters for men and women during the fall and winter. But during the day, the homeless head to places such as libraries, the mall and emergency rooms in hopes of getting dry and warming up, according to Jackie Blair, a St. Vincent parishioner and member of the Federal Way Day Shelter advisory committee.

“We would prefer for them to have a place to go to get clean and have some rest,” said Blair, who also helps provide community meals for people in need every Saturday.

St. Vincent’s helped form a coalition of 25 churches and community groups, including Catholic Community Services, to work on the day shelter project. The Federal Way City Council recently approved $100,000 in operating funds for a two-year pilot project.

A location has been selected, but $55,000 for retrofitting the space is required to sign the lease, St. Vincent’s pastor, Father Bill McKee, told a gathering of supporters Oct. 29 in the parish hall.

Coalition members are about a third of the way toward their fundraising goal, Blair said, with hopes to open the space in early 2016.

volunteers make invitationsSt. Vincent de Paul parishioners Linda Murphy, left, and Jackie Blair help put together fundraising materials for the homeless day shelter project in Federal Way. Photo: Jean Parietti

The shelter will welcome the homeless from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days a week, providing a place to take showers, do laundry and get a bite to eat. There will be access to job-hunting and education resources, case management services and counseling. The shelter also will provide an address where homeless residents can receive mail.

Parishioner Greg Vicars, also a member of the advisory committee, said coalition members insisted the city money for the shelter come from new sources, not taken from existing human services funded by the city.

In addition, a new emergency declaration by King County Executive Dow Constantine in response to the growing numbers of homeless people in the region could open the door to federal dollars that would benefit the day shelter, Vicars said. (Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed a similar proclamation for his city.)

Federal Way’s day shelter will be operated by Catholic Community Services, which also staffs the Reach Out shelter that rotates among Federal Way churches during the fall and winter. (St. Vincent de Paul Parish hosts the shelter in December, with meals provided by volunteers from St. Vincent’s and neighboring St. Theresa Parish.)

St. Vincent’s parishioners hope to do more for the homeless, but “we felt that it was very important to start with something achievable and concrete,” longtime parishioner Robin LaMoria said at the Oct. 29 gathering. The pilot project will help organizers “better understand what it would take to develop a more permanent, comprehensive solution for the future,” she said.

Establishing a day shelter, Father McKee said, can “help the homeless in our community reclaim their dignity. … And just as important, those who are homeless in turn are giving us an opportunity to claim our dignity.”

Jean Parietti contributed to this report.

Help the day shelter

Mail donations to: Federal Way Day Shelter, P.O. Box 4154, Federal Way, WA 98063.