U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene recently joined Kenmore Mayor David Baker in a visit to Mary’s Place Northshore, a family homeless shelter that serves the Northshore community.
DelBene and Baker toured the facility, which was converted from a vacant King County Sheriff’s Office in Kenmore last summer, and met with several families who are currently staying there.
“We know that homelessness is a huge issue throughout all of our communities and the fact that Mary’s Place has been able to work with so many local organizations and put together a facility like this to give people a safe place to go is incredible,” DelBene said. “It’s wonderful that they were able to come up to Kenmore.”
Marty Hartman, director of Mary’s Place, guided the tour and described each of the services offered within the facility.
Mary’s Place guests have access to donated clothing, a computer room, laundry machines, meals, kitchen space, play rooms, bedrooms and an outdoor play area. Additionally, Mary’s Place provides lockers for guests to secure important documents and valuables.
Guests use a point system to purchase donated items such as clothing, diapers and toiletries. They earn points by doing chores, applying for housing or jobs and other various things.
“It’s kind of the Mary’s Place economy,” Hartman said. “We want [guests] to begin to budget and choose the gifts that are capable of meeting [their] kid’s needs and [their] own needs.”
The Northshore community directly donates many of the purchasable items and the Northshore Fire Department recently donated an array of new coats.
“When I first approached the council about Mary’s Place here, there was just automatic acceptance,” Baker said. “We haven’t had one person in the community grumble about this. Everybody has been hugely supportive of Mary’s Place coming here. It really speaks highly of the community itself to be so open and welcoming.”
DelBene talked with several children and families who wished to remain anonymous. The children were happy to show DelBene around their playroom while the parents showed appreciation for DelBene’s legislative work.
An omnibus bill that passed in March included several of DelBene’s bills, including a version of the Access to Affordable Housing Act. The bill, H.R. 4185, increased the low income housing tax credit by 50 percent and aims to create 400,000 more affordable housing units over 10 years.
“That means that there’s more financial incentive to build more affordable housing in our region and hopefully help people who are at Mary’s Place find long-term affordable places to live,” DelBene said. “We need to make sure that there’s housing available.”
Many of the children go to school in various local districts and once they arrive home, staff and volunteers will watch and play with the children if their parents are working or simply need to rest.
Additionally, Mary’s Place recently secured $13,000 to build a playground in the parking lot. James Flynn, the youth services director, is working with his team to design the playground.
“We’re pretty good at dreaming big” Flynn said. “We’ve been doing some research and we’ve got to figure out what is the best blend of serving all ages because we get [everybody, from] little ones to big kids.”
The current outdoor play area was renovated in September when about 140 employees from Microsoft’s Bellevue departments volunteered their time to improve the space. The volunteers landscaped, painted throughout the building and set up the computer room.
Mary’s Place operates numerous shelters that serve King County families. Initially, the organization only served single women, then moved to single moms, single dads and now serve two-parent families, multi-generational families and families with pets, according to Hartman.
The Northshore shelter serves 60 to 80 people with the goal of getting families into permanent housing within 90 days. Currently, the average is 95 days, Hartman said.
“What Mary’s Place adds to the community. It’s just remarkable,” Baker said. “And we still have families sleeping in cars at night here in Kenmore.”