During better economic times, one to two families a week would check into Kitsap Community Resources to inform the organization of their homelessness.
For some of these families, it stemmed from financial conditions, such as job loss or medical costs.
For other families, the issue was domestic abuse, or other family related matters.
During the recession, this number spiked, as KCR is regularly notified by five or more families per week that they have lost their home.
“When you don’t have a dollar and you don’t have a dollar to buy a home, you have a slim chance to live,” KCR Housing Director Darlene Cook said.
In response, KCR is opening a new temporary housing shelter on Anderson Hill in Silverdale, designed to hold up to six families.
Bert Furuta, director of Kitsap County Personnel and Human Services, said the shelter will be available only to women with children, which he described as “our most vulnerable population.”
“We need more emergency shelters,” Cook said. “The minimal time we can spend integrating them into the community can make them far more stable. With the homeless kids, they often keep it a secret and don’t tell their friends. If a family continues to be homeless, studies show the kids are far less likely to go back to school.”
Overall, 154 families are on KCR’s waiting list for emergency shelter. These families represent 469 people, 257 of which are children.
An estimated 639 families, representing 937 individuals, were homeless at the end of 2008, according to statistics from the Kitsap County Jail. New statistics for the homeless are compiled during the end of January each year.
For the homeless, this facility is not the long-term solution.
Residents may stay at the facility for a maximum number of 90 days. Feruta said the residents are required to meet with a KCR representative at least once a week to assist with potential employment.
KCR also works with the children to ensure they are enrolled in schools, and have transportation to them.
The non-profit One-Church One-Family, which is paying the utilities for the facility, will provide a support group for the residents while KCR provides case management, said Rick Best, the group’s executive director.
“We want to be a listening ear,” he said. “We want to provide personal, spiritual and emotional help.”
One-Church One-Family is a group of volunteers from Kitsap Churches that began in response to local Hurricane Katrina victims. Best said the group already helps the county operate 10 other units for the homeless and has had a 73 percent success rate during the past five years helping the homeless become full home owners.
For 25 years, the Sound Institute, formerly Kitsap Youth Homes had
operated in the facility as a crisis residential treatment center for non-offender children through Kitsap County Juvenile Services.
In late 2008, the state notified the county that it was unwilling to continue funding the facility, which cost $670,000 annually.
“The funding just wasn’t there. There is a real hole in the county without this program,” said Ned Delmore, director of services at the Kitsap County Juvenile Department. “But this homeless program is as important as any.”
KCR approached the county in fall about using the facility for temporary housing. Feruta said the county is providing an $8,000 start-up grant, but that it will be privately run by KCR, One-Church One-Family and volunteers there after.
Six dormitory style rooms are in the facility, three of which are furnished and three which still need basic appliances, Furuta said.
Employees from six local businesses and department contacted KCR to sponsor rooms in the facility during the past month: Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue, Jazzercise and Centcom Employees, as well the Kitsap County Information Services Department, Juvenile Services and Assessor and Treasuries.
These groups will provide basic items for the rooms, such as pillows, sheets and blankets.
Feruta hopes the facility opens by the beginning of January, if not by Christmas.
“There’s a bit of urgency,” he said. “If we can get six families out of the cold then that’s a great Christmas present.”