Ground broken for year-round shelter for homeless women and families

Key partners breaking ground April 10 for a new homeless shelter in Kirkland include Father Kurt Nagel, center, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Kirkland, and Father Gary Zender, third from left, pastor of St. Louise Parish in Bellevue. Standing next to Father Zender is King County Executive Dow Constantine. Photo: Jeff Parietti Key partners breaking ground April 10 for a new homeless shelter in Kirkland include Father Kurt Nagel, center, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Kirkland, and Father Gary Zender, third from left, pastor of St. Louise Parish in Bellevue. Standing next to Father Zender is King County Executive Dow Constantine. Photo: Jeff Parietti

KIRKLAND – Three years after the idea of helping homeless families on the Eastside took root at two area parishes, construction is beginning on a 24-7 shelter to serve families and single women experiencing homelessness.

“With gratitude and joy, we break ground and commission the shelter as a place that recognizes Christ’s call to serve the poor by meeting the urgent need for a year-round, 24-hour shelter for families and for women who are experiencing homelessness on the Eastside,” Father Kurt Nagel, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Kirkland, prayed during a service of blessing April 10.

The 19,000-square-foot Kirkland Shelter, expected to be completed in 2020, will offer 100 beds on two levels. The first floor will house the New Bethlehem Project, a program of Catholic Community Services, where families with children will have access to communal and private spaces. The second floor, operated by The Sophia Way, will serve single adult women with private cubicles.

In addition to sleeping accommodations, the Kirkland shelter will have shower and laundry facilities, access to nutritious food, supportive case management services and on-site medical and behavioral health services. Volunteers will bring food, companionship and restorative resources for guests.

Kirkland ShelterA rendering of the Kirkland Shelter, expected to be completed in 2020.

The need for shelter is great — the 2018 Count Us In Report showed 12,000 people experiencing homelessness in King County, with more than half unsheltered on any given night, according to a media release from the shelter’s partners. On the Eastside alone, more than 800 school-aged children are experiencing homelessness, the release states.

What originally began as a partnership among Holy Family, St. Louise Parish in Bellevue, Salt House Church in Kirkland and Catholic Community Services/Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington has grown to include nonprofit shelter and housing providers and local, county and state governments that are contributing funds for the $9 million shelter.

Funding includes more than $2.1 million raised by parishioners at Holy Family and St. Louise, and donors from The Sophia Way.

“This shelter is the culmination of a vision and dream that began four years ago to serve our neighbors in great need,” Linda DeBoldt, chair of the New Bethlehem Project steering committee, said in a media release. “The power of partnerships within our community and with our government agencies has made it a reality that will make a real difference in the lives of women and families.”

During the groundbreaking event, Father Nagel was joined in the blessing service by Father Gary Zender, pastor of St. Louise, and Pastor Sara Wolbrecht of Salt House. Other speakers included King County Executive Dow Constantine; Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet; Bill Hallerman, agency director for CCS of King County; and guests who have received services from New Bethlehem Project and The Sophia Way. Click here to watch a video of the groundbreaking ceremony.

Kirkland ShelterBarbara Lopez is joined by some of her family, who received help at New Bethlehem Day Center when they were homeless for eight months. Photo: Michele Ahearn Photography

Barbara Lopez told those gathered about the help she received at the day center during the challenging eight months that her family was six was homeless. “We always came back to New Bethlehem because it was a safe place where we found hope,” Lopez said,

The family has moved into housing in Issaquah and now they volunteer at the day center, bringing meals to help other families experiencing homelessness. Later this spring, Lopez will complete a CCS training program and begin an internship as an advocate at the center.

“I would like to thank God for the opportunity to work with all the staff at the day center,” Lopez said. “They gave me the opportunity to better myself and build something new for my family.”

The New Bethlehem Project was initiated by Holy Family Parish in October 2014 as part of its strategic planning process. Joined by St. Louise, a mission statement was created and three goals were identified: a day center for homeless families (which opened in fall 2016 at Salt House Church), extending the operation of the Eastside Emergency Overnight Shelter (which happened in 2017) and building a permanent emergency shelter.