The development of Community Ministry at Seattle Mennonite Church is an outgrowth of SMC’s vision for peace and justice as followers of Jesus Christ. SMC understands that a neighborhood’s response to people experiencing the trauma of homelessness, is exactly that, a corporate, collaborative response. To that end SMC seeks to partner with local residents, businesses, and agencies in generating a grass-roots, person-centered effort to companion people who are experiencing homelessness.
As Seattle Mennonite sought to be faithful to what God sets before us, fellowship meals were initiated with people experiencing homelessness in the neighborhood. The congregation had been getting to know this group of folks already, as the church was preparing bag lunches for day laborers and showers/laundry for those day laborers who had no other place to clean up. Out of those early days of breaking bread with each other, there came a call for personal storage and transportation support. The response was the initiative Stop, Drop, and Roll (SDR). SDR’s goal was to provide belongings storage and transportation to allow community members access to critically needed services and employment opportunities not available in Lake City. Stop, Drop, and Roll was open every Thursday between 6 & 8 am and 6 & 8 pm, and was operated out of the church foyer off of 125 th St.
Our present and future
Lake City historically did not provide many of the services or employment opportunities which are utilized by people experiencing homelessness. Labor Ready, the community connection to day labor work, left the neighborhood several years ago. The DSHS office in Lake City also left the neighborhood some years ago, making the new DSHS and Worksource office at the North Seattle Community College the designated office for local residents. The North Helpline Food Bank and Emergency Services organization is growing into its new space, built in conjunction with the Low-Income Housing Institute. It the same building there is a free Rotacare Clinic every Saturday morning for people without health insurance, as well as a NeighborCare Community Health Clinic which serves those with Medicare and Medicaid . We have also been grateful that the Veterans Administration has opened a Outpatient Clinic in Lake City, and also that the Community Psychiatric Clinic has opened a day center for Veterans called Project Thrive, offering intensive case management for Veterans working with co-occurring addiction and mental health concerns.
Day Center guests have found the service to be of vital assistance to enable them to visit a physician, access complete hygiene services, visit a social service agency for support, or find employment when their lack of cash available on a given day would otherwise make it impossible. They have found that the baggage storage service enhances their ability to move around town more efficiently, with less concern over belongings left behind, and with the decreased stigma of carrying their life’s belongings on their back.
On July 1 st , 2008, we moved Stop, Drop and Roll into its new location at 12517 33 rd Ave. NE. Into a house owned by Seattle Mennonite Church, and named by the homeless community as ‘God’s li’l Acre’. In this new location we have expanded support services to include daily drop-in hours Monday thru Friday, during which time people can access: laundry facilities, showers and hygiene, community kitchen, internet and phone, resource referral, food closet, nursing care, personal storage, blankets and clothes, morning prayers, gardening, and a safe, secure place to just ‘be’.
Our hope over time is that programming will be added to the core drop-in schedule that will support the rebuilding of relationships of support and trust so needed by people experiencing homelessness. Recovery from the trauma of homelessness is long-term work, and our hope is to be patient, goal-oriented supporters of people in recovery.
Other SMC programs benefiting people experiencing homelessness
- The congregation hired Community Ministers , who began their work on June 1 st , 2007. Their role is to offer spiritual care, reaching out and engaging homeless people, extending hospitality, and connecting people with resources and referrals when desired. The Community Ministers will work with SMC to develop future programs, do public education, liaison with community partners, and develop the resource base available to the homeless community in Lake City.
- SMC coordinates weekly community meals at GEORGE (125th St. NE) to continue dialogue with the homeless residents of the neighborhood as well as other neighborhood stakeholders. We continue to gather feedback, suggestions, and information on needs and abilities in this forum. Thanks to the interfaith support of local faith communities, these meals are provided every Sunday.
- SMC facilitates the Lake City Task Force on Homelessness , which gathers each month (2nd Friday 3:30-5:00pm) at the Seattle Mennonite Church to share insights and efforts on ways to address the concerns of homelessness in the Lake City neighborhood. Goals include information sharing, strategizing, visioning, inviting participation, and collaborating.
- In partnership with Community Psychiatric Clinic, plans are underway to realize a 21-unit housing development for Veterans with disabilities, called Valor Apartments. The ground-breaking for this project will be in the fall of 2013.
- In partnership with Seattle University College of Nursing, who has been volunteering with us for years as a learning environment for nursing students, we are embarking on a 2-year research and implementation project to offer medical respite housing for people experiencing homelessness.
Volunteering and Support
If you are interested in connecting with people experiencing homelessness in Lake City, and becoming part of the community of support, please contact the SMC Community Ministers:
Jonathan Neufeld – firstname.lastname@example.org
Melanie Neufeld – email@example.com
Phone: 206-361-4630 ext. 7
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