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Community welcomes KentHOPE Day Center for women, children

Mayor Suzette Cooke joins KentHOPE executive board members in cutting the ribbon, formally opening the KentHOPE Day Center. Far right is Pat Gray, KentHOPE chairperson. - Courtesy photo/Roland Bradley Photography
Mayor Suzette Cooke joins KentHOPE executive board members in cutting the ribbon, formally opening the KentHOPE Day Center. Far right is Pat Gray, KentHOPE chairperson.
— image credit: Courtesy photo/Roland Bradley Photography

It represents a small step in the Kent community's ambitious plan to address a growing homeless problem.

Behind a large volunteer effort, the Kent Homelessness Partnership Effort (KentHOPE) has collaborated with Seattle's Union Gospel Mission (UGM) to open a women and children's day center.

City, community, Kent School District and other supporters converged at an open house last Saturday to embrace and celebrate the arrival of the center, a converted UGM transitional housing office at 9009 Canyon Drive.

Mayor Suzette Cooke applauded the group's effort before a ribbon cutting and house blessing ceremony.

The KentHOPE Day Center officially opened Monday and will remain open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily to help struggling women and children, with the capacity to respond to as many as 25 individuals on a given day. A site manager and case workers will staff the center, which will depend on trained volunteers and steady donations to help make it go.

The UGM donated the center, allowing KentHOPE to operate the shelter under a rent-free arrangement.

"We couldn't have done it without them," said Pat Gray, KentHOPE chairperson, while entertaining a large crowd of supporters at the grand opening. "It's very exciting. We are so pleased to be able to finally open a facility.

"It's a small, significant victory," Gray said, "and our vision remains to open a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week KentHOPE center for all the homeless in the greater Kent area.

KentHOPE, which is dedicated to reducing homelessness in the community, is a partnership of churches and faith-based groups, UGM, Valley Cities Counseling, businesses, community service agencies and concerned residents.

The day shelter sheds new optimism on KentHOPE's long-range plans. The organization has tried but has been unsuccessful in launching a full-service, around-the-clock shelter for Kent-area homeless.

"This is something we can point to with pride and accomplishment," Gray said of the day center. "We're in the right direction, but we're not there yet."

The day center offers and wide range of services, including showers, laundry facilities and restrooms; three healthy meals served daily; computer and life skills training; GED and employment assistance; counseling; advocacy for services; computers with Internet access and a clothing bank.

The center includes a children's room, laundry room, two bathrooms and showers, classroom, computer room, living room and space for case management workers.

"Our goal isn't to keep them here. It's our goal to help them apply for permanent housing, either going through the transitional route or recovery ... basically we try to help them get out of the situation they are in," said Sharon Thomas, UGM public relations manager.

The day center will connect with the school district to help the homeless find their way.

The school district identified 250 students as being homeless in the district in the last 14 weeks, said Rona Popp, an administrator with the Kent School District's Student and Family Services.

"And we haven't hit Christmas yet," Popp said of the homeless crisis. Popp, who sits on the KentHOPE executive board, oversees state and federal programming for the homeless.

The day shelter, Popp said, is desperately needed.

"(KentHOPE's) perseverance has been so admirable. This means a lot to the Kent School District," Popp said. "We have a place to refer our families to now. That's huge for our counselors, our mothers and our youth."

The center is reaching out to make it accessible. Day center staff have coordinated a shuttle service with the downtown Holy Spirit Church Women's Winter Shelter. The day center is also on the Metro Transit Route 169.

To volunteer, donate or to learn more, call 253-450-2325, email info@KentHOPE.org or visit www.KentHOPE.org. KentHOPE also can be found on Facebook.

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