It is estimated that more than 200 students in the Northshore School District are homeless. The City of Kenmore, King County and Mary’s Place are hoping to do something about that by opening a 24-hour resource center and family shelter.
“We’ve got a real problem,” King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski said.
“I don’t want any kid going to bed hungry; I don’t want any kid going to bed in the back of a car or a tent,” Kenmore Mayor David Baker added. “This is for the children.”
The shelter, which is on track to open later this summer, will be located in the vacant King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) building at 18118 73rd Ave. N.E. in Kenmore.
“It has sat unused and that has bothered me, knowing we had that space (that could be used for this purpose),” Dembowski said.
Mary’s Place, in partnership with the city and the county, held a community meeting at Kenmore City Hall last week to provide information about the services the shelter will provide and field questions from local residents.
Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place, said 97 percent of families who are homeless are only homeless once, and the goal at Mary’s Place is to get every family who is placed in the shelter into a permanent living situation within 90 days.
In addition to providing a safe, stable place to sleep and meals, Mary’s Place will also bring in volunteers and representatives from area nonprofits during the day to assist with housing, jobs, childcare, health care and other things shelter residents might need.
“The goal is to help these families be financially stable,” Hartman said.
Some in attendance at the community meeting raised concerns about safety in the neighborhood around the shelter, but Hartman repeatedly assured them that the shelter wouldn’t threaten the safety of the neighborhood, as the residents go through an intensive screening process, and they are as interested in keeping the area safe as any other citizen or parent would be.
“Safety is the most important thing in our shelter, (inside and out),” Hartman said. “(The shelter residents) are hard-working parents. They want their children to get an education; they want to eat around a dinner table.”
People will only be admitted as families, meaning at least one adult and one child must be part of the group requesting to be placed there. No single adults (male or female) or adult couples will be admitted. Hartman said the background check includes criminal history and they screen out violent and sexual offenders.
Additionally, this shelter will be localized, focusing on families who live in the Northshore area.
“We want to identify those families and bring them inside,” Hartman said. “They lost their address — we don’t want them to lose their community, too.”
Hartman said there will be room for 60-80 people at the facility, which Mary’s Place is leasing rent-free from King County. (Mary’s Place will cover the costs of utilities and any repairs needed.)
With the goal of getting families into new homes within 90 days of placement in the shelter, this use for the dormant KCSO building is considered to be an interim use.
“Going into buildings that will be torn down has been (an effective model),” Hartman said, adding Mary’s Place operates similar shelters in Seattle.
For more information, visit marysplaceseattle.org, contact Hartman at (206) 621-8474 or call Kenmore assistant city manager Nancy Ousley at (425) 398-8900.