Northeast King County, across Lake Washington from Seattle and long-considered an affluent neighbor, is home to a growing number of families experiencing homelessness. As part of this community, members of Holy Family Catholic Church in Kirkland felt compelled to do something to help. Last November, Parish volunteers reached out to neighboring Salt House Lutheran Church, and presented the idea of establishing a day center for homeless families. The big question was: we need 3,000 square feet of space; may we use yours (in your basement)? Discernment followed and the answer was, “Yes! How can we help?”
Christened The New Bethlehem Project (NBP), the day center will provide a warm, safe place for families to rest and make use of a variety of services, including: shower/bathroom facilities, washer/dryer, telephone and mail, computers (to search for jobs and housing), meals and access to referral services. Catholic Community Services will manage the center; volunteers from churches and the local community are volunteering their time and energy.
The initial fundraising goal of $380,000 was met within months and will cover the costs of remodeling the basement and the first year of services. More funds are needed to maintain the project for a total of three years. Partners in the project (including the City of Kirkland) have committed themselves to working together over that 3-year period to develop a full-time, year-round permanent facility that will serve families (mothers and/or fathers with children) experiencing homelessness.
Holy Spirit Lutheran Church member and Deaconess Candidate Le Brandes alerted the Deaconess Community to this need. The Community has answered the call with a Mission Support Grant.
As of this date, the required permits are nearly completed and the lease is signed. Construction begins soon with a hoped-for opening date of October 1. Many volunteers from Salt House and Holy Spirit Lutheran Churches have worked to develop Salt House, whose mission is to “engage young adults in living like Jesus through relationship with God.” The NBP meets our mutual goal of embodying the radical hospitality of Jesus Christ.
In anticipation of the NBP opening in late summer, Le and her husband, Garry Smith have planted two raised beds of herbs and vegetables at Salt House. In time these (and perhaps more) beds will provide fresh produce for NBP families.