Kitsap Homes of Compassion (KHOC) is a nonprofit with the goal of ending homelessness in Kitsap County by creating affordable long-term housing solutions through the use of shared, leased homes.
The nonprofit was started in 2017 by retired environmental engineer Joel Adamson, who was compelled to take action on the homelessness and affordable housing crisis in Washington state after conducting extensive research on the causes of homelessness. On the KHOC website, Adamson outlines the history of homelessness in the United States and how a major cultural shift in the 1980s exacerbated the growing crisis.
“A portion of the U.S. population has always been homeless, the character and size of the homeless population began to change by the early 1980s. Until then, homelessness was chiefly associated with older, single males struggling with alcoholism,” Adamson said.
“The size of the homeless population has swelled and become more diverse to include a larger number of women, children and seniors. Before 1980, many elderly and disabled could get by on their social security or disability income, but now find housing to be unaffordable, forcing them into homelessness,” he added.
Adamson wanted to find a financially sustainable way to end homelessness, particularly for these most vulnerable groups in Kitsap County. Like many agencies and organizations working to address homelessness, he initially toyed with the idea of tiny-home communities but found that even that kind of new construction was not reasonable.
“It’s one avenue, but they are not the most conducive for elderly people and people with physical disabilities. Not to mention, it can cost $40,000 to build just one tiny home,” Adamson said.
KHOC’s approach to addressing homelessness is to go back in time and revive the concept of boarding homes by leasing five- and six-bedroom homes with the owners’ consent, to be used for the program.
Program participants must have a steady source of income of at least $700 a month or some other subsidy such as Social Security or disability insurance. Private rooms start at $500 a month and vary depending on the home lease cost and a sliding scale based on income. The monthly fees include utilities, phone service, TV and internet.
“We have a program agreement that each participant signs. By signing, they agree to pay the monthly program fee, a refundable security deposit and abide by the house rules. There’s no live-in house staff, but each house is assigned a house manager who will visit the home weekly and facilitate a house meeting and can be a resource for the program participants during the week in case of an emergency,” Adamson said.
There are some requirements that participants must meet in order to qualify for KHOC housing, in addition to the ability to verify their income:
- Participants must currently be homeless, including folks living in a car, tent, shelter or temporary housing.
- Participants cannot be on the registered sex offender list or have been convicted of committing a violent crime within the last 3 years.
- They cannot have used illegal drugs within the last 9 months.
- They must be healthy enough to live independently and be able to cook, clean and care for themselves.
- Some of the homes have an age limit of 55 and older for senior living, others 40 and older for adults with developmental disabilities. Additionally, for those struggling with alcoholism, there are sober homes where no alcohol is allowed.
KHOC is predominantly self-funded based on monthly program fees paid by the participants who occupy the homes. It takes up to $4,000 to start up new homes, which covers the one-time start-up costs of that home, among other outstanding costs. This startup money comes from donations.
The KHOC currently has 11 homes open in Kitsap County, with the most recent home opening on June 1 in Poulsbo. The home caters specifically to women with young children, some of whom are victims of domestic violence.
“I would like to open a home for seniors in Poulsbo, as well, in the near future,” Adamson said.
KHOC plans to open 24 more homes over the course of the next 18 months. It recently formed partnerships with Coffee Oasis and Olympic College on a pilot program creating housing for single men and women who are homeless but are also students at the college.
“A lot of our housing right now is catered toward people 40 and older or to parents with young children. We want to have places for young homeless people as well. There tend to be a few more hurdles with young people that we are trying to address with these partnerships,” Adamson said.
Adamson is also beginning to explore creating homes for immigrants who are seeking asylum in the United States, particularly for those fleeing violence in Central America and the Middle East.
“As we continue to do this and as this grows, we would ultimately like to address the housing crisis on the whole. But right now, the focus is on our most vulnerable populations,” Adamson said.