There is an epidemic of homelessness on the west coast and The New Bethlehem Day Center is working to alleviate the hopelessness.
Located in Kirkland, Wash, New Bethlehem is a ministry of Catholic Community Services, which is housed in Salt House, an ELCA developing congregation.
In late June, Sr. Liz Colver and Sr. Noreen Stevens visited the Center where they found:
- A staff of professionals and trained volunteers who provide a year-round place for homeless families(adults with children) to find community and resources.
- Services including an afternoon snack and warm dinner, restrooms, showers, laundry facilities and access to computers and social services.
- The center can accommodate up to 50 people seven days a week from 2:00 – 8:00 p.m.
This shelter gives families a safe place to work and stay together. But, as a day shelter, there is a gap in the services that New Bethlehem can provide. Sr. Noreen wrote, “when the center closes for the evening, the guests may head to an overnight shelter or car city.” The “car city” is a low-cost lifeline provided by a Kirkland church. The congregation opened its parking lot to homeless families living in their cars.
New Bethlehem is working to bridge this gap between day and night. The City of Kirkland bought land from Salt House to build transitional housing.
Sr. Noreen was struck by what she called New Bethlehem’s “liberal admittance policy.” This translates into limited paperwork, accepting any configuration a family defines themselves to be, and a focus on showing respect to all. Sr. Noreen illustrates these points with a story:
Gillian told us about a man who when he first arrived would not look at anyone. He kept his head lowered, talking as little as possible. Over several weeks his head began to lift and he began to talk with other guests and staff.
He had been beaten down by people and his life experiences but with the respect and welcome that was poured over him, he straightened up.
A beautiful gift: respect, which faithfully interweaves with resiliency.