New life, and new mission, for Nelson Park farmhouse

Formerly homeless women become resident caretakers of the home and park

POULSBO — A community partnership between the city, Poulsbo-North Kitsap Rotary Club and various contributing businesses has breathed new life into the old house at Nelson Park in Poulsbo.

It began as an idea, put forth by Mayor Becky Erickson: Instead of providing a home for one caretaker at Nelson Park, why not transform the caretaker’s residence into a home for homeless youth?

“I approached Dave Frederick with the idea, he thought it was a great idea and he started to move that forward,” Erickson recalled.

Dave Frederick is the executive director of The Coffee Oasis, a local nonprofit which operates youth centers focused on homeless outreach. The nonprofit offers showers, laundry, food, clothes and hygiene products as well as job-training opportunities, tutoring, mentoring and case management options.

Frederick said the house’s residents will be homeless women. “[We will be] helping them ultimately toward permanent housing and toward helping them out of homelessness through employment, education, housing and all those things.”

Living among the 18- to 25-year-old women will be a female supervisor who will ensure that day-to-day upkeep and the tenants’ progression through their case management are all maintained.

“Caregiving for caretaking” is how Michele Doyle describes the arrangement.

Doyle is president of Rotary Club and owner of MD Design Group. Doyle helped orchestrate the community partners’ roles in upgrading Nelson House.

The women will take care of the park and house in exchange for their residency.

“They will learn responsibility,” Doyle said. “They will have to maintain the house. They have to maintain the park, so they will learn responsibility and following through with commitment but they also have to be going through whatever requirements they need to do [in order] to stay in case management with Coffee Oasis. Basically, we’re trying to help them become independent and responsible.”

After taking over as president of the Rotary Club, Doyle and volunteers began working toward turning the house into a place where the young women could flourish; however, it soon became apparent to those involved that club funds set aside for the project wouldn’t be sufficient.

“We realized that we wouldn’t have enough money to do all the things that we had wanted to do to make the house a really uplifting space for these young women,” Doyle said. An $8,000 grant from Home Depot alleviated some of the remaining expenses, but money was still needed for furnishings.

“We talked to the Bainbridge Island Rotary Club right around the time they were planning to hold their annual rummage sale in July,” Doyle said. “We said, ‘We really need some things to furnish this house with.’ They said, ‘Come to the sneak preview and take what you need.’”

The day before the annual Bainbridge Island Rotary Auction and Rummage Sale, a sneak preview is held wherein visitors can pay a small fee to examine what items will be up for bid and for sale the following day.

“Down to the dishes and the toaster and pots and pans — they just said, ‘You go to every department and you take what you need,’” Doyle said.

While Rotary funds, grant money and partnerships with local businesses paid for the restoration of the house, “the rummage sale furnished everything else,” Doyle said. “We wouldn’t have [had] enough money to furnish a four-bedroom home with a kitchen and a living room and a dining room.”

Erickson praised the Rotary Club for their contributions in restoring and refurbishing the residence.

“Poulsbo Rotary really did most of the heavy lifting regarding fixing the house up, getting it repainted, getting all the furniture in it, new flooring, new appliances,” Erickson said. “Credit where credit is due — it was really a huge effort by Rotary and I am deeply respectful of all the work that they did.”

The Nelson House is located in Poulsbo’s Nelson Park. Organizers of the program have asked that visitors remain respectful of the tenants’ privacy while visiting the park.

— Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. Contact him at ntwietmeyer@soundpublishing.com

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