Message from our Emergency Winter Shelter Manager

The days are getting shorter and the concern on the faces of the women is evident. The Emergency Winter Shelter is rapidly coming to a close for the 2016-2017 season. For some women, this has been a welcome refuge and they have stayed in our shelter for the entire season.  For some it was a one or two-night safe space as they figured out next steps. Regardless of why they came, they will all have to find another place to sleep, at least until we reopen the shelter on  October 15th, 2017.

Since opening on what was slated to be a horrible winter storm on October 15, 2016, we have provided a safe place to sleep, two meals, bus tickets, winter clothing and a compassionate presence for 166 women and 10 children. We have laughed, cried, danced, and set goals with the women in our care. We have watched our ladies rally to help young mothers care for their babies. We have witnessed community developing among women from all walks of life-helping each other navigate the bus system, sharing resources, setting up mats for those with disabilities and sharing a kind word with those who were having a hard day. We have moved twice and lost and gained women along the way. It has been an amazing journey.  

So, who exactly has used our shelter as a safe haven this winter?  We have had anywhere from 3 to 40 individuals on any given night. Our age range has been from 2 months old to 67 years old with an average age of 56 years old. An overwhelming number of our women report having a disability which certainly adds an extra burden to navigating homelessness. We have mothers and grandmothers, veterans and immigrants. We have women who have worked their entire lives and continue to do so but are unable to afford rising King County's housing costs. We have women who struggle with mental illness for who engaging in consistent care is a challenge when navigating the all of the other circumstances that arise when you have no consistent home. We have those seeking safety for any number of reasons and have been honored to open our doors 7 days a week for the most weather challenging months in the Pacific NW.

"I don't know where I'll go when the shelter closes."  That is the common refrain as I spend time with each woman to offer resources for other shelters.  It is a bittersweet time, indeed.  Good work has been done over the past 7 months, but is unfortunately overshadowed by the uncertainty that exists as we prepare to close our doors. There is a sense of urgency as we push harder for a permanent emergency shelter.  We are looking forward to that day when our only good bye will be as we usher women from the shelter into permanent housing. Until then, we will look forward to reopening our doors on  October 15th, again, offering shelter and community the Eastside's most vulnerable and invisible population.
- Cynthia Brown, Emergency Winter Shelter Manager
We Need Your Help to make this year BIGger. You have helped us place 25 women into stable and permanent housing in 2017. 
Donations to The Sophia Way via our  Seattle Foundation Profile Page will be 'stretched' thanks to Seattle Foundation.  The Biella Foundation has generously offered to match up to $5,000 of donations received onGiveBIG  an amazing opportunity we don't want you to miss!
This is our moment to work and give together - donations large and small - making our great community more affordable for all. 
Your Gift will provide a safe and warm place for women experiencing Homelessness. 
For more information about GiveBIG, please  Click Here
    Nurse Kim's note 
From the days when we were first located in the parish hall of Bellevue First Congregational Church to a dedicated, built out space on the same property to our current location at Saint Lukes, it has been a privilege to be the nurse serving the day center.  The sad reality of being present with these precious women over the last 9 years is that many faces are familiar, some of whom are from my very first visits.  Through a partnership with Seattle-King County Public Health/Healthcare for the Homeless and HealthPoint I have been fortunate to be able to provide basic nursing services in shelter once a week.  Driven by the goal to provide everyone access to a medical home, I meet women where they are most often most comfortable-outside the traditional clinic or hospital setting.  It is at the day center that I have been able to establish trust and hopefully break down barriers that have prevented them from accessing routine and preventative care.  In addition, I have been able to do small things in shelter which can go a long way to maintain health while without a home such as:  influenza vaccinations, distribution of vitamins and other over the counter medications, blood pressure checks, foot and wound care and lots of health education and coaching.  More than any medical intervention I have found that the greatest gift I can give our women is to be an authentic listener, truly interested in their story.  It is from these relationships that we have built the foundation for some amazing health outcomes. 
While we have come a long way from a woman's dream for a day center to our current overnight and day center, we still have much work to do to make homelessness a "one time, brief occurrence".   In the medical community we have a saying that "Housing is Healthcare" recognizing that a stable home is essential to health and healing.  Please join me with your continued support to make this a reality for the women of The Sophia Way. 

This note from the heart was written by Kim Hess, Community Health Nurse, Homeless Programs
Partnership with PlayNetwork 
One of the best parts of working at PlayNetwork is partnering with The Sophia Way and other organizations through our Give committee. I love being part of Give because I get to learn about critical issues in our community, and help organize simple ways employees can make an impact.
We discovered The Sophia Way last Fall while collecting socks, underwear, hats, and other warm items to donate. What impressed me is the practical, comprehensive model The Sophia Way uses to help women transition from homelessness to stable independent living. They know the importance of the big stuff like shelter, meals, laundry, and case management, as well as the small details like women serving themselves breakfast, that cultivate dignity and self-sufficiency. I feel more compassionate toward folks experiencing homelessness, which The Sophia Way reminds us is a phase, not an identity.
The relationship between PlayNetwork and The Sophia Way has grown, with staff from The Sophia Way coming to judge our holiday "Deck the Desks" contest, a wonderful tour of the shelter, and kicking off our meal donation program. Recently Kavya spoke at PlayNetwork so more employees could learn about and participate in their important work. Partnering with Kavya, Pat, and the whole Sophia Way team continues to be a source of inspiration, and we look forward to an ongoing and fruitful relationship!

This beautiful article was written by Kimberly Absher, Human Resources Coordinator, PlayNetwork

Volunteer Spotlight - Madhura Kulkarni 
What am I going to do with my time? How can I be productive? How can I put my Masters into use? These were questions running in my head when I learnt that I was not allowed to work in the area. I moved to Seattle after my wedding and my visa did not allow me get a work permit. 
I started at The Sophia Way  as a front desk volunteer a little over a year ago. Today, I work as the Development and Communications Coordinator (Volunteer) This experience has  helped me shape my life and made me what I am today. What I love about volunteering is that I am able to give back to people in need. The satisfaction and gratitude makes me happy every single day. 
I realized my strength was in doing basic Development tasks like donation entries, contacting and thanking our donors, generating reports, helping with events etc. I found my passion towards Donor Development and Communication and Fundraising.

It has been an amazing experience volunteering here. Exciting and very rewarding in terms of personal development. It is a fantastic way to put yourself out of your comfort zone and meet people you would otherwise have never met. For me personally, I am also building my resume - this makes me stand out. 

I really encourage everybody to come and volunteer with The Sophia Way. All the staff and other volunteers are very sweet and helpful. It feels like a family here! It taught me how to appreciate little things and be grateful for what we have. Thank you for helping my passion grow into a reality. 

This inspiring article was written by Madhura Kulkarni, volunteer at The Sophia Way.

Thank you Bellevue Christian Church for your generous donation of $15,000