Opinion

Christmas came early to Kent this year | Eckfeldt

A wonderful gift to homeless women and children was opened in Kent last Saturday. The KentHOPE Day Center for Homeless Women and Children opened on Canyon Road.

More than 150 attended the dedication ceremonies.

KentHOPE created the center through a coalition of more than 25 churches, faith-based groups, the Union Gospel Mission, human service agencies, Valley Cities Counseling, the Kent School District, businesses and concerned citizens.

Mayor Suzette Cooke and the KentHOPE executive board cut the dedication ribbon. Pat Gray, KentHOPE chairperson, led the program with remarks by Rona Popp, of the Kent School District Student and Family Support Services. Pastor Leslie Braxton, in his blessing, emphasized the day center was an early Christmas gift to the community.

By noon Saturday the Center had already served four families.

The day center will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the week with a site manager and two case workers.

By the spring of each school year more than 400 children in the Kent School District do not have a permanent address. Women make up a significant number of the homeless who live on our streets. The center will provide showers, laundry, restrooms, three healthy meals served daily, computer and life-skills training, GED and employment assistance, counseling, advocacy, Internet access and a clothing bank.

KentHOPE, which is dedicated to reducing homelessness in our community, continues to work toward opening a 24/7 Homeless Resource Center for all who are on our streets. In January of this year in the One Night Count of Unsheltered in King County, there were 53 people at 1 a.m. on the street/parks/under bridges. It is clear on any day of the week in Kent that a large number of folk have no place to go.

In June, KentHOPE convened more than 40 human service agencies that have services for the homeless in South King County, and every one indicated a place to offer them is needed in Kent. Late in 2012, churches, individual and businesses contributed $82,000 at the first KentHOPE fundraiser. The 2014 fundraiser is March 1 at New Beginnings Church.

An ongoing search and negotiations are under way for a location to meet this significant community need.

KentHOPE, city officials, the business community and concerned individuals are to be commended for their efforts to provide this second-needed shelter. For many years, our city community motto was "Kent Cares." Another example of this will be when we can dedicate the Kent Homeless 24/7 Resource Center.

For more information, visit kenthope.wordpress.com.

Marvin Eckfeldt who served as pastor of First Christian Church of Kent from 1967-2000, is retired and lives in Kent.

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