Helping homeless families

Puyallup parish works through interfaith project at Seattle University to fight homelessness

All Saints Puyallup parishioners at Olympia capitol
Members of Puyallup’s All Saints Parish traveled to Catholic Advocacy Day in Olympia, where they asked legislators to streamline assistance programs and reduce the waiting time for homeless families to receive aid. Photo: Courtesy All Saints Parish

By Kim Haub

For All Saints parishioner Veronica Kaipainen, helping the homeless is a family affair.

The Kaipainens participate in Faith and Family Homelessness Project events at the Puyallup parish, where they learn ways to help and advocate for the estimated 319 homeless families in their community.

“I am drawn to the idea of faith in action,” said Kaipainen, a public school counselor. “This really seemed to be an activity that I could apply to my professional life as well as my spiritual life.”

All Saints is one of 14 Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations — and the only Catholic one — participating in Seattle University’s Faith and Family Homelessness Project. All Saints received nearly $10,000 in grant money through the program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The parish is doing “extremely well,” said Mark Markuly, dean of theology at Seattle University. “They are uniting around the issue of homelessness.”

All Saints is using its grant funds in two ways. “Our parish works as a safety net, by helping people with household funding and emergency assistance,” said Aleah Patulot, the parish’s pastoral assistant for outreach. “The second is educating and helping parishioners to help advocate for social justice.”

Patulot kicked off the project at All Saints in November 2012 with a 24-week JustFaith seminar to educate parishioners about living their Catholic call to serve the poor. “It was a great comprehensive program that taught how to live the Gospel,” Patulot said. “It really inspired action from the people.”

For the past two years Patulot has taken a group of parishioners to Catholic Advocacy Day in Olympia, where they met with lawmakers to offer ideas for simplifying and expediting help for the poor. “I learned that one voice really does matter,” Kaipainen said. “My voice represents someone else’s voice that is unable to be heard.”

Each quarter, Patulot and the other participant leaders meet with Seattle University staff members to share information about the programs they are conducting in their communities. This summer, All Saints is partnering with Puyallup Nazarene Church to provide housewarming baskets for families transitioning into stable housing through a Puyallup organization, Helping Hand House.

Parish plans for the fall include a “poverty simulation” presented by the Seattle University staff. Participants will be assigned roles, such as a homeless person or a government worker, and role-playing will demonstrate what people have to go through to get aid. “Poverty simulations really help to experience what it must be like to live in poverty or be homeless,” Patulot said.

Through its families and parish school, All Saints is also educating children about homelessness. For instance, Kaipainen’s 12-year-old daughter, Cameo, works at the parish food bank, and she helped the homeless by donating money she earned as an altar server at funerals.

“It seemed better to spend the money on something someone would need,” Cameo said, “rather than what I just want.”



Homeless family projects

Learn more about Seattle University’s projects focused on homeless families:


July 15, 2014