A Home For The Homeless In My Neighborhood

There’s a new affordable housing facility going up in downtown Ballard less than a mile from my house. The Nyer Urness House, built by Compass Housing Alliance, will provide eighty apartments for formerly chronically homeless men and women. I received a letter the other day asking if I would help welcome my new neighbors by sponsoring an apartment for $1,000, which will be used to purchase needed supplies for one apartment and also help furnish the common rooms.

Nyer Urness opening Spring 2013
Nyer Urness opening Spring 2013

I know about this housing facility because my mother’s social worker at her current home, a shelter downtown, put her on the list to receive an apartment. My mother has lived in shelters for almost twenty years, usually in a large room with a designated bed and locker where she can keep her things as long as she shows up every night at 6PM when they open the door, and leaves early in the morning when the close the shelter for the day. Because my mother is homeless, most days she walks around downtown. If she has bus tickets she may ride around for a while, or hang out at the women’s day shelter. When she was receiving benefits before they were cut and eventually ran out (she refused to sign the papers that would continue them because of delusions about her social worker), she used to take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and peek in the shop windows. These days she complains of her knees and the cold, and I do what I can to help ease her discomfort, but her illness often prohibits her from taking the offered help.

In a few months all of this may end for my mom. She’ll still be schizophrenic, but she’ll have a roof over head, a caring community, and her family close by. I can only hope and pray she will take a gigantic leap and try something so, so new by moving away from the familiar night shelter environment. I don’t know that this will happen, but I do know that someone’s mother or father or sister or brother will be moving off the streets in a matter of months. And I want to be part of making their new homes welcoming and inviting. If everyone who was unable to give $1000 gave a small amount, we could, as a community, help bring real compassion into the lives of those who are taking  a new and perhaps scary first step into a place they can call their own. A place where they can sleep in, store their things without a padlock, watch the program they want to watch, or read a book without listening to someone else’s fight. Where they can be home.

Join me, by donating here. (And would you let me know that you did? I’d love to try to pool the amount so we can put up a plaque outside one of the apartments to acknowledge the gifts…perhaps from Ballard Moms and Dads?)  You can also donate household items through a Target registry, also available through the link.

Thank you. So much.



3 thoughts on “A Home For The Homeless In My Neighborhood”

  1. I am so moved by your perspective on this and so grateful that you took it upon yourself to not only write about this, but share it, offering a perspective, no doubt difficult for you, and one many people do not share. I for one struggle with deciphering between someone who really does need help, whether due to a mental illness (as in your mothers case), disability, or just run out on luck and someone who may be using the “need help” facade to field a drug addiction (which I recognize is still a valid disease), or gain some extra cash. It often seems easier to ignore any ken who appears to need help, or is asking for it, than tap your instincts. But I read recently an article about homelessness and, from the perspective of s homeless person, described his experience as being invisible to people. It struck a chord with me, realizing that is often how I treat the homeless, as if they are not even there, humbly asking for help.
    I appreciate you reaching out to the Ballard community to put a face to homelessness, particularly on the “family of a chronically homeless woman” and give people like me reason to believe in the sincerity of those asking for help. I can’t donate $1000 but plan on donating what I can and hope there is a large group of us who contribute and take pride in doing something to help what has become a large group if people in our neighborhoods. Thank you!

    1. Lindsay, thank you so much for taking the time to respond, and for thinking through these complex issues. I, too, often wonder how to truly help. I know giving to reputable organizations is the best way, but there are people out there, and as you pointed out, just ignoring them feels wrong. I’ve started just waving or nodding my head in acknowledgement of someone on the side of the road even if I don’t give them anything. I, too, don’t want to just give someone money to feed an addiction (though I also, as you alluded, struggle with “who am I to decide how someone else gets by in a situation like that?”). I found that many people weren’t able to take the food I tried to give them because their teeth were too bad, so I’ve started handing out hand warmers. But plenty of people don’t want them, either. So…you know, you do what you can, but as you said, they just want to feel like they, too, are an equally ‘valid’ member of the human race in a culture where economic achievement is one of our few markers of worth. It’s good to know there are people like you out there thinking through this stuff, too. And thank you for donating! I want to be there on move-in day to see the smiles on these faces!! Take care, maybe I’ll catch you around town. 🙂

  2. Hi Sweet Heart ~ I’m thrilled to discover your blog….as I have a few I follow faithfully! This is wonderful! I will be thrilled to donate household items to this amazing project and send prayers that your mom will on board and accepting of this opportunity! Thank you for using your beautiful voice to enlighten us all! xo

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