For the past year and a half, Paige Chernow (L) and Mary Hillman (R) have been making weekly visits to assist clients with computer use. Paige is the Adult Services Librarian at the University Branch of the Seattle Public Library (located just a few blocks from EGH). Mary is a retired librarian who is an active volunteer and a member of University Lutheran Church, which is where the EGH Day Center is located.
“We help EGH clients search and apply for employment, create or recover their access to email and social media accounts, or simply find bus routes to local social service agencies,” said Paige. “We also provide referrals for health clinics, nonprofits that assist with furniture and household items and how to locate and apply for discounted cell phone providers.”
In addition to providing computer help, Paige and Mary try to build relationships with clients. “Just listening is sometimes the most important service we can offer,” said Mary.
Paige and Mary have also encouraged clients to go to the library for additional help and services. Paige has been able to waive fines on clients’ library accounts so that they can use their library cards again to check out materials. EGH clients who go to the University District branch have reported feeling more comfortable approaching library staff for assistance.
We are excited to launch our new Job Readiness Program soon! We anticipate starting this summer with women living in the Transitional House and adding a class for Day Center clients in the fall. The Program will be divided into three separate modules:
- The first module explores individuals and their personal operating styles.
- The second module explores strengths and communication.
- The third module is a time to review what has been learned, practice interviewing and meet one-on-one with a coach.
It is our hope that the Job Readiness Program will prepare and help to guide our clients in their efforts to re-enter and successfully navigate the current job market.
At times, I find myself getting discouraged when reading statistics concerning homelessness, such as the growing numbers of people without homes compounded by the decrease in affordable housing throughout our region. What I find helpful in fostering optimism and hope is reminding myself of strides that are being made. For instance, on a legislative level, the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness just last month celebrated that every single one of their legislative priority bills passed at the state level! Examples of what was passed into law:
- HB 1570: increased and protected a significant portion of funding for programs that prevent and end homelessness (raised an additional $24.6 million for homelessness assistance and services per year).
- HB 2578: banned discrimination based on a renter’s source of income.
- HB 2667: removed barriers to housing assistance for people with disabilities and seniors by increasing access to HEN (Housing and Essential Needs funding) and preventing homelessness when people switch from HEN to ABD (Aging, Blind or Disabled cash assistance program.)
Closer to home, EGH is also celebrating recent successes. We had the most successful Annual Spring Dinner ever in March – 14 sponsors and 350 attendees – yielding income totaling over $180,000. Our board of directors continues to grow in both talents and numbers, with 14 of the 15 available seats filled as of April. Given the expanding numbers and needs of women, we rented additional space at University Lutheran Church beginning in January. This enables us to plan for a critical initiative: expanding the number of days that our Day Center is open. Our EGH strategy is to add one day at a time, and as reflected in the featured story on Annie, Sunday is the hardest day on those who are experiencing homelessness and thus will be the next day to be added.
I thank you for your support of EGH and invite you to consider additional ways you might get involved. Opportunities abound! For instance, you could:
- Check our website for donated items needed and sponsor a neighborhood collection event
- Call us or visit our website to explore existing volunteer opportunities or perhaps generate new possibilities
- Reach out to me for a tour or a chat (206-729-0262, extension 1007)
- Tell your friends or others in your circles about supporting Elizabeth Gregory Home by contributing through Seattle Foundation’s GIVEBIG event on May 9th
There has certainly been no shortage of change at EGH over the past year, and I’m excited to share plans around what’s next.
But first I want to highlight what is, or has been. A year has gone by since our Day Center expansion was completed. In that span of time, new programs emerged (such as showers, established resting space, knitting, Qigong, Coordinated Entry for All assessments, and managing finances classes.) We welcomed two new employees (Elizabeth Stevenson, our Development Manager, and Cynthia Morehouse Dugan, our Day Center Coordinator,) as well as three new board members (Roger Morris, Glen Garrison and Jay Corker Free.) We were honored by gifts of financial support from new sources, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bravo Roofing, and Wheat Ridge Ministries.
So what’s next?
We bid farewell to Maisy Lane, who has served as Program Manager since September 2015, and welcome Christine Carr in that capacity effective July 1st. July also marks the first time that EGH joins United Way of King County as a partner agency, enabling us to participate in their coordinated efforts to combat homelessness. We are in the throes of developing new programs derived from client-identified needs, such as job readiness skills training and onsite health care screenings and referrals. We will be managing a much-needed refurbishing of our transitional house furniture, thanks to the generosity of the Archibald Foundation.
Our capacity to fulfill our mission of providing a welcoming and respectful refuge where homeless and at-risk women have access to compassionate care would not be possible without the synergistic efforts of employees, volunteers, board and advisory council members, and the community of individual friends and donors.
With deepest gratitude for all of your support, I thank you.
As you enter Elizabeth Gregory Home’s Day Center in the morning, you are often greeted by the smell of biscuits hot from the oven. A hot protein-dense breakfast is already on the table as women file into our kitchen and dining area to eat after a night in a shelter.
Sharing a meal at Elizabeth Gregory Home is an essential part of the welcoming feeling at the core of EGH. “We’re family!” said Teresa. “We sit at the table in the kitchen and we talk, we tell jokes and laugh a lot.”
Thanks to our partnership with Food Lifeline, volunteers drive each Wednesday to the Food Lifeline warehouse and pick-up 1,500 – 1,700 pounds of food for the EGH Day Center.
In 2016, EGH received 86,865 pounds of food valued at $138,984. This food is prepared by clients, staff and volunteers as congregate meals, in addition to allowing individuals to cook food for themselves. This provides rare and welcome opportunities for women to address special dietary needs or cultural expression.
Several women have earned their food handler’s permits in order to both help prepare meals for the Day Center, as well as acquire job readiness skills. “Getting here first thing to cook really helps me to get out of bed in the morning and it gives me self-confidence,” Linda said.
Every Thursday, Food Lifeline’s program known as “Seattle’s Table” facilitates the delivery of prepackaged foods, such as salads and sandwiches that women can either eat at our Day Center or take with them at the end of the day. This nationally recognized program gleans prepared and perishable foods from local restaurants, hotels, universities and corporate cafeterias and delivers it to over 50 meal programs in King County. For more information about this and other Food Lifeline programs, visit their website at www.foodlifeline.org.
Images from top right volunteers Lonness and Amy who regularly pick up food on Wednesday’s were able to pack 1,372 pounds of food into Amy’s Prius.
Being homeless can be grueling. Imagine trying to get a good night’s sleep in a night shelter with as many as twenty-five strangers sleeping somewhere between a few feet to a few inches away from you. You have to worry about the safety of your personal belongings, as well as prepared to be woken up throughout the night with the noises of others. “You can’t let your guard down to really sleep deeply because you have everything you own with you,” said Mary, one of our clients. “Even though it might not be worth much, when it’s everything you have, it’s important. So you keep it close and try to keep an eye open when you try to sleep.”
Part of Elizabeth Gregory Home’s mission is to provide a welcoming and respectful refuge for homeless women, which is why EGH launched a sleeping program in September. By offering a safe, quiet place for women to rest during the day, they are better equipped physically and emotionally to tackle tasks that will help them move towards getting housed and accessing a source of income. For now, EGH is the only drop-in Day Center in the Seattle area that allows women to rest during the day.
EGH is incredibly grateful for the use of the University Lutheran Church’s choir room during the hours our drop-in Day Center is open Monday through Friday. The space is quiet, serene and comfortably accommodates up to eight mats at a time.
Thanks to everyone who helped to make showers at the EGH Day Center a reality! The women we serve are happily showering to their hearts content.
Special thanks to Nalani Askov for creating this womderful showers video.
Fifteen years ago, the members of University Lutheran Church (ULC) decided to make some space available within its facility for a new mission. After a year-long process of inquiry and research within the congregation and in the community, a task force concluded that this space would best be used for homeless women.
A board was elected to pursue this vision, establish a separate 501(c)3 organization, raise funds for the new organization, and determine when and how to commence operation. Over the course of the next 4 years, the groundwork was laid and funds were raised to open a transitional home for Elizabeth Gregory Home (EGH). A year later (2007), a day center was opened.
I have been privileged to be a significant part of this journey, both as the pastor of ULC and as a board member of EGH for the past 15 years. Although having been credited with being the “founder” of EGH, this fabulous organization would not have happened had it not been for the vision and support of the members of ULC and of the broader community, as well as the staff and board members throughout the years. Back then, everyone knew that homelessness was on the rise and that women needed their own place to find refuge apart from the men who tended to prey on them. The path that was chosen to meet this need was pretty obvious. All that it took was the desire, the will, some tenacity, and the finances to put the vision into action. The current stability of EGH is a credit to all who have been a part of this endeavor.
As I leave the board of EGH and depart from ULC, I will cherish all of you who have been on the front lines of making Elizabeth Gregory Home what it is today, as well as all of you who have ensured the viability and sustainability of EGH with your gifts, time, and prayers. Most importantly, I will hold in my memory all of the women who have entered the doors of EGH and found a place to call “home,” whether for a moment, a week, a month, or a year. To leave this place knowing that the women of EGH will continue to have this home as their refuge is a dream come true and a source of hope for all of the women who are yet to pass through the doors of EGH.
The EGH Annual Beatles-Sing-A-Long was held on January 23rd. More than 200 people sang and danced the night away!
Thanks to the hard work of our beloved Plasticine Porters and numerous volunteers, more than $3,400 was raised to help homeless women through Elizabeth Gregory Home’s programs and services.
Sometimes somebody does something to renew your faith in human nature… and it really feels good.
Fran Erhardt, a longtime RHA member, called the office to ask who she could talk to about making a donation. She had just read the article in last month’s UPDATE about RHA raising funds for the “Showers” capital campaign for the Elizabeth Gregory Home homeless women’s shelter in the University District.
“I didn’t have to think about it very long. This is just something I need to be a part of.
It’s the right thing for RHA, and me, to do.” Fran donated $2,000. One member—ten percent of our $20,000 goal. And we have 5,200 members….
The first thing I did was call and thank her. Then I asked if she would share a bit about herself with other members. She agreed. While RHA members are a diverse bunch we have a lot in common: drive, the ability to shoulder risk, faith that our hard work will eventually pay off, rental housing horror stories, smarts, frugality, but also—because of what we do—an understanding of people…compassion. So here’s a story about one RHA member—Fran Erhardt—who has all those things.
“Actually,” she told me, “I had a connection with the Elizabeth Gregory Home (EGH) a few years ago. I happened to own and manage a small building near the EGH day center (where the showers are going). A number of years ago EGH leased a floor in my building as a residence for women they are working to help at the day center. Everything went well. We never had a problem.”
Had she ever felt uncomfortable around women from the shelter. “Uncomfortable? No. Some of the women probably made bad choices, probably all of them had a lot of bad luck. But I always thought, well, if a few things in my life had worked out differently I might be here too.”
Fran’s parents emigrated from Holland after the war. She grew up on a dairy farm near LaConnor with six brothers and sisters, attended Seattle Pacific University in the early eighties and majored in accounting. “I got interested in real estate when I took a real estate financial analysis class. Our professor made us find buildings for sale, contact the broker, do a rent study, analyze the numbers, learn about notes and contracts and all sorts of things. He was great.”
How did she get from there to owning a boarding house? “Well, my husband (now deceased) and I had a couple of rental houses in Edmonds. Then we heard about a small apartment building in the University District so we sold the houses and bought the building. I was working as an accountant for a construction contractor then and noticed that the owners of the company kept buying apartment buildings. So I asked a lot of questions and got a lot of help from them. This was the nineties and opportunities to acquire buildings in the U-District kept showing up. We managed everything ourselves. That’s how you figure out the market you in what it takes to make things work.”
I asked if her first-hand experience with EGH had anything to do with why she made her donation to the ‘showers’ project.
“Yes. There are two reasons. First, EGH helps a lot of women for not much money. They get the women counseling and connected with social services, jobs, other people who can help. And they do that with so little money. I used to be a CPA. They give a great return on investment. Dollar for dollar, they’re just really efficient at helping women get started again.”
And your other reason? “Being a landlord isn’t easy, but if you stick it out and the rental market eventually rewards you—and it has been rewarding, especially lately—I feel I have a responsibility to those who haven’t been as lucky as I’ve been. I have a responsibility.”
“And I lied. I have a third reason. I’m selfish. It makes me feel good.”
Thank you, Fran Erhardt, for helping RHA move closer to our $20,000 goal for the Elizabeth Gregory Home ‘Showers’ campaign.