Partner Post – “Home for Sale”: Nowhere to Call Home

amre_5[1]Our partners at SU’s Project on Family Homelessness just published the first in a series of blog posts on the “American Refugees” short films produced by our other ‘sister’ project, The Film & Family Homelessness Project. Read below for new project assistant Emma Lytle’s reflection on “Home For Sale,” which contrasts the excitement of buyng a home with the heartbreak of foreclosure, telling the story of one family’s sudden descent from stable employment and housing into homelessness.

A film that showed me how close homelessness can be for families

By Emma Lytle, Seattle University senior communications major and project assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness, originally posted in the Project on Family Homelessness Blog on 7/25/14 

 Note: This is the first in a series in which we ask our staff to react to the “American Refugees” film that most appealed to them.

Stability is the foundation and the glue that holds a family together. Stability comes in many forms, whether it’s sustaining a steady job or having a place to call home.

As the daughter of a firefighter and a nurse, I grew up feeling that sense of stability. But some families aren’t always so lucky. Sometimes that glue disappears from a family as parents struggle to make ends meet.

Home for Sale” is a captivating short film about the loss of a family’s stability and the reality of losing their home. This film showed me how close my family could have been to being homeless while I was growing up.


This is the foreclosure notice on the house in “Home for Sale,” just one of the many signs of a struggling family.

“That would never happen to us.”

This quote is from the short film. It’s what a couple says as they think about buying a foreclosed house. They feel they would never lose their home to foreclosure.

I have always believed this statement to be true for me and for my family too. This film shook me with the reality of homelessness.


The couple looking at buying the foreclosed house. Like many others, they struggle with whether they can buy a house that represents the broken dreams of another family.

Like the wife of the firefighter who lost his job in the short film, I never questioned the stability of my family. I always found security in my parents’ jobs because I never thought people could stop needing medical attention and people always need firefighters.


The couple in the film discussing what they will do now that the husband has lost his job. This is one of the many heart-breaking conversations that occur in struggling families.

The filmmaker, Laura Jean Cronin, was a Film Fellow in the Seattle University Film & Family Homelessness Project. Interestingly, the inspiration for the film came from Continue reading on the Project on Family Homelessness Blog 

Guest Post: Want to end homelessness? Then we need to address domestic violence.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune, Founder, FaithTrust Institute

Sometimes the reasons for homelessness and poverty are obvious:  a lost job, a bankruptcy, a foreclosure, a death in the family. But more often than we’d like to admit, the cause is violence in the family. Domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault can force women and children (primarily, but not exclusively) out of a home and into a precarious, uncertain future.  The majority of homeless youth fled physical and sexual abuse at home. Over 90% of homeless women have experienced severe physical abuse in their lives; 63% have been victims of intimate partner abuse as an adult.

Families now make up a THIRD of the homeless population; a typical homeless family in a shelter is a woman with two children. Throughout our history, FaithTrust Institute has sought to address the complex dynamics of domestic and sexual violence, particularly the faith and cultural aspects of abuse. The psychological impacts of witnessing and experiencing violence have lifelong effects.  The isolation of domestic violence leaves many women without a stable, independent source of income or credit history. It can also destroy social networks and support systems. Without the means to rent an apartment and no close relationships, a woman and her children who are fleeing – sometimes for their lives – have nowhere to go.

FaithTrust Institute events button

Women of faith experience domestic violence within the context of their belief system; religion and religious teachings will be either a resource or a roadblock.  Especially at a time of crisis, a woman needs to know that her faith community values her wellbeing.  I believe that we as helpers should never put a woman in the position of having to choose between safety and the support of her faith community. She needs both. And it’s up to us to provide that.

For 35 years, FaithTrust Institute has worked with faith communities of all kinds to address the violence that’s all around us, but often hidden, sometimes ignored.  It’s possible for all of us to imagine the physical and psychological pain of the victims, but the impact isn’t felt solely by the individuals involved. The trauma and betrayal pervades our culture. Violence in families is an underlying cause for much of the suffering that many of us work to combat.  Poverty, food insecurity, homelessness, addiction, and impoverished health are all issues rooted in violence in families, and more broadly, in a culture of violence.

Many faith communities dedicate themselves to ending poverty and homelessness as their spiritual mission. In order to end homelessness, we must understand the interconnections that foster injustice. Acknowledging the impact that violence has on victims and survivors isn’t enough. We need to understand that by confronting the issues of domestic and sexual violence, we will impact injustice at every level.  A more holistic view of justice will lead to the more holistic, and effective, responses that our communities need.

To that end, Faith Trust Institute is offering a free webinar “Domestic Violence & Homelessness: What’s the Connection?” on August 13, 2014 from 11am-12pm. Sponsored by InFaith Community Foundation, this  presentation features Linda Olsen of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV). For more information, visit

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In addition, we are offering Safe& Healthy Congregations Training: Ending Family Violence,” a two-day training for Christian churches on October 17-18, 2014 at the Seattle Airport Marriott (near SeaTac). This training, sponsored by InFaith Community Foundation, invites a team of four congregational leaders to learn about the dynamics of family violence and then develop actionable strategies to support victims and their families, prevent future harm, and hold abusers accountable. The application deadline is August 15; space is limited to 25 teams.  All costs for the training are underwritten by InFaith Community Foundation. Visit for more information, or email

I encourage any faith community working to end homelessness to join us for one or both of these events.

Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune is the Founder and Senior Analyst at FaithTrust Institute in Seattle, WA. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, she is a pastor, educator, and author as well as a practicing ethicist and theologian. Her books include Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse and Sexual Violence: The Sin Revisited.

M. Fortune contact box                                 





If you’re interested in reading more blog posts like this one, check out “Self-determination, Safety, and Stability: Domestic Violence Housing First” by Linda Olsen of WSCADV


Partner Post – Project Cool: Supplying a Brighter Future for Children who are Homeless

We love our colleagues at Seattle U’s Project on Family Homelessness. In the piece below, Krista Kent, new Digital Design Assistant for PFH, tells us all about how cool SKKCH’s Project Cool really is! She speaks to the power of community, of volunteering as a way to engage more deeply with your community, and points to the great need of the more than 6,000 homeless school-aged children in King County. Read on to learn more (and check out the “What you can do” box at the end for ideas of how to take action now)!

By Krista Kent, Digital Design Assistant, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness and senior at Seattle U

crayola-markers-164895a8e3f12fa0[1]As a child I always loved buying new school supplies, and there was perhaps nothing better than a brand-new case of Crayola markers. Having worked in a first-grade classroom this past year, I have seen that students are still excited to have new supplies. But for families who can’t afford to buy supplies, local supply drives play an important role in the community.

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in Project Cool for Back to School, which gathers supplies and creates backpacks for local school-aged children who are homeless. Volunteers came together at Columbia City Church of Hope earlier this month to help assemble and pack backpacks full of school supplies and dental kits.

Presented by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, Project Cool prepared more than 1,300 backpacks with the help of 130 volunteers over the course of five days. The backpacks will be distributed to nonprofit organizations in August, just in time to get them to students all over King County.

Continue reading on the Project on Family Homelessness Blog →


In the News: Helping homeless families

A shout out to our partner parish in Puyallup, All Saints, whose advocacy and work with homeless families was just recognized in an article in Northwest Catholic last week! Read the full article below to learn more about how the parishioners are putting their faith into action. (And look for a word from School of Theology & Ministry Dean Mark Markuly!)

Puyallup parish works through interfaith project at Seattle University to fight homelessness

By Kim Haub

All Saints Puyallup parishioners at Olympia capitol
Members of Puyallup’s All Saints Parish traveled to Catholic Advocacy Day in Olympia, where they asked legislators to streamline assistance programs and reduce the waiting time for homeless families to receive aid. Photo: Courtesy All Saints Parish

For All Saints parishioner Veronica Kaipainen, helping the homeless is a family affair.

The Kaipainens participate in Faith and Family Homelessness Project events at the Puyallup parish, where they learn ways to help and advocate for the estimated 319 homeless families in their community.

“I am drawn to the idea of faith in action,” said Kaipainen, a public school counselor. “This really seemed to be an activity that I could apply to my professional life as well as my spiritual life.”

All Saints is one of 14 Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations — and the only Catholic one — participating in Seattle University’s Faith and Family Homelessness Project. All Saints received nearly $10,000 in grant money through the program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The parish is doing “extremely well,” said Mark Markuly, dean of theology at Seattle University. “They are uniting around the issue of homelessness.”

All Saints is using its grant funds in two ways. “Our parish works as a safety net, by helping people with household funding and emergency assistance,” said Aleah Patulot, the parish’s pastoral assistant for outreach. “The second is educating and helping parishioners to help advocate for social justice.”

Patulot kicked off the project at All Saints in November 2012 with a 24-week JustFaith seminar to educate parishioners about living their Catholic call to serve the poor. “It was a great comprehensive program that taught how to live the Gospel,” Patulot said. “It really inspired action from the people.”

For the past two years Patulot has taken a group of parishioners to Catholic Advocacy Day in Olympia, where they met with lawmakers to offer ideas for simplifying and expediting help for the poor. “I learned that one voice really does matter,” Kaipainen said. “My voice represents someone else’s voice that is unable to be heard.”

Each quarter, Patulot and the other participant leaders meet with Seattle University staff members to share information about the programs they are conducting in their communities. This summer, All Saints is partnering with Puyallup Nazarene Church to provide housewarming baskets for families transitioning into stable housing through a Puyallup organization, Helping Hand House.

Parish plans for the fall include a “poverty simulation” presented by the Seattle University staff. Participants will be assigned roles, such as a homeless person or a government worker, and role-playing will demonstrate what people have to go through to get aid. “Poverty simulations really help to experience what it must be like to live in poverty or be homeless,” Patulot said.

Through its families and parish school, All Saints is also educating children about homelessness. For instance, Kaipainen’s 12-year-old daughter, Cameo, works at the parish food bank, and she helped the homeless by donating money she earned as an altar server at funerals.

“It seemed better to spend the money on something someone would need,” Cameo said, “rather than what I just want.”

With A Series Of Small Bans, Cities Turn Homelessness Into A Crime

  • “Camping” in Public: 34% of cities impose city-wide bans on camping in public
  • Sit/Lie Laws: 53% of cities prohibit sitting or lying down in particular public places
  • Vehicular Residency: 81 cities have laws prohibiting sleeping in one’s vehicle, a startling 119% increase from 2011
  • Food Sharing: 9% of cities prohibit sharing food with homeless people
  • Begging in Public: 76% of cities prohibit begging in particular public places.
  • Loitering, Loafing and Vagrancy: 33% of cities make it illegal to loiter in public
    throughout an entire city.
  • One example of bad criminalization policy: Orlando, Florida. 34% of homeless people in the Orlando area are without shelter beds, yet the city restricts or prohibits camping, sleeping, begging, and food sharing.

The NLCHP concludes that these laws are both costly to taxpayers and ineffective in reducing homelessness, in addition to being grossly inhumane and unconstitutional in many cases. Read the full report to learn more.


Susan St. Amour panhandles on a median in Portland, Maine. The city tried to ban loitering on medians last year, but a judge found the law unconstitutional. Photo credit: Caroline Losneck for NPR

Laws that criminalize homelessness are on the rise across the country, according to a new report by an advocacy group. The laws prohibit everything from sleeping in public to loitering and begging. Advocates for the homeless say the laws are making the problem worse.

Susan St. Amour is among those who could be affected by the new restrictions. Twice a week, she stands on a median strip at an intersection in downtown Portland, Maine, asking passersby for cash. She says she needs the money to get by.

“[If] for some reason I don’t get a bed at the shelter and I have nowhere to stay, it means I can’t eat that night unless I have a few dollars in my pocket,” she says. “Or it may be because I need to take the bus to the other side of town. I might have a doctor’s appointment.”

Last year, though, the city passed a law that banned loitering on median strips. A federal judge has since declared the law unconstitutional, but the city plans to appeal. Council member Ed Suslovic says the goal of the legislation was not to hurt the homeless — just the opposite, in fact.

“This was a public safety threat, mainly to the folks in the median strip, but also to motorists going by as well,” Suslovic says.

To Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, such measures are counterproductive — as well-meaning as they might be. Especially if they subject individuals to jail time or fines they can’t afford to pay.

“It would be nice if you could solve the problem of homelessness simply by outlawing it,” Foscarinis says. “But in reality, it takes resources to really end homelessness.”

Resources are often difficult for cities to come by, even though numerous studies show that housing the homeless is more cost-effective in the long run: Ultimately, less money is needed for emergency services, like hospitals and police.

Still, many cities are trying to help the homeless, even as they pass laws making it more difficult to live outside. Back in Portland, Suslovic says his city is working aggressively to house homeless residents. And the National Law Center applauds other efforts, such as a homeless outreach team at the Houston Police Department.

Sgt. Steve Wick runs the Houston program, which aims to get people off the street. As part of the program, officers and a caseworker guide the city’s homeless residents through an often confusing bureaucracy to get them the services they need. He says many have mental health and substance abuse problems.

“You can’t tell a person that’s been living on the street for a long time, ‘You need to do this, this, this and this in order to get off the street’ — because they can’t do it,” he says. He adds, “If you don’t kind of help them through the whole process, they’re just kind of stuck. They’re stuck on the streets.”

Wick says officers still need to enforce laws against things like urinating in public, but he says programs like his offer an alternative, more permanent solution.

In the News: How to Keep Foster Youth from becoming Homeless Youth

Judy Lightfoot strikes again with yet another great piece for Crosscut’s Kids At Risk series! In the article below, Lightfoot recounts the story of “Seven,” a now 25-year-old young woman who experienced a traumatic childhood of neglectful caretakers, anger and isolation as she bounced in and out of the foster care system. At 20, Seven managed to get into permanent housing and later found new community and opportunities through the Fostering Scholars Program at Seattle University, where she is currently pursuing a BA in Criminal Justice.

Unfortunately, Seven is the exception rather than the rule – many teens like her end up on the street when they turn 18. In Washington state, a remarkable 35 percent of teenagers who age out of foster care each year become homeless, according to a recent study. Success stories like Seven’s, Lightfoot points out, take “a village of caring, committed and patient professionals”; a supportive community, interconnected providers, and persistently compassionate individuals can make all the difference. Read below for the full article.

By Judy Lightfoot, originially published 7/7/14 in Crosscut

Foster_homeless_Seven_at_Youthcare_crop_fit_300x300[1]“Seven” grew up in a repressive authoritarian cult. She was so isolated from the world, she didn’t know what TV was until she was 12. After her father was kicked out of the cult, she attended public school for the first time. “I had to stay after school so they could teach me how to read a clock,” she says.

The 21st century overwhelmed Seven. She got good marks in seventh grade, but she couldn’t sit still. “I was a loose cannon,” she admits. “I was a watcher and absorbed things [until] it was just too much. Kids who weren’t nice to me I kicked in the shins.” When puberty hit, with its hormones and identity crises, she broke down and was expelled for violent behavior.

Seven ran away from home to live with an older sister who traveled a lot for her job in the adult entertainment industry. Unsupervised, Seven started using with street kids, and eventually went missing downtown. By age 14, she was bouncing from group foster homes to juvenile detention to hospital ERs and psych wards. Antipsychotic meds cooled her down enough for placement in a more normal foster home, but her foster mom was spiteful, repeatedly telling Seven: “When you turn 18, we’ll have a nice bonfire in the street for your stuff.”

Seven recalls being haunted by “the terror of turning 18. I couldn’t think straight to do school, didn’t have the skills to get a job. I felt insane, felt I was drowning.”

When she turned 17, Seven’s case manager got her into transitional housing at YouthCare’s Pathways. She blew out of Pathways and other programs more than once, she says. “People were trying to work with me but I was really struggling.” Then when she hit 20, an 18-month voucher from Seattle Housing Authority helped her move into her own apartment. “It was my first experience of having my own place,” Seven says.


Click to read more stories from Crosscut’s Kids at Risk series.

The foster care system is a major pathway to homelessness. A tiny fraction of America’s 18-24-year-olds are homeless or unstably housed in any given period, but the percentage of foster youth who become homeless is high. In Washington state, 35 percent of the 550 teenagers who age out of foster care each year wind up on the streets during their first year out. That’s according to a 2013 study by the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

In addition, many foster kids run away to the streets, where they may spend days or even years. Between January 2010 and April 2012, 115 to 172 children ran away from their foster homes each month, according to DSHS.

As Seven’s history suggests, steering homeless foster kids or young people at risk of homelessness under a roof and keeping them there is no simple task. “It’s not like they get housed and quickly become successful people,” says Hedda McLendon, YouthCare’s director of programs. “Their progression is never linear.” In this respect, says McLendon, homeless foster kids are a lot like college kids who need to “take breaks and who get to go home, then go back [to school]. One thing we do with our programming is we try to allow for that coming and going.”

Continue reading on Crosscut →

Guest Post: One Night in a Car, Our Family’s Story

One Night In A Car

Image courtesy of Helping Hand House, Puyallup WA.

Diane is a devoted wife, mother of two daughters and grandmother of three. She and her husband are entrepreneurs and have owned their own business for over 30 years. Diane has participated in 60-mile cancer walks, Kiwanis, Lions, and has volunteered with St Jude’s and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She is a passionate advocate for better programs to prevent and eliminate family homelessness.

This is her family’s story.

One Night in a Car

Over the past year I’ve dreamt of being involved in an event where others can learn what it is like, just for one night, to sleep in your car. If nothing else, the event would increase community awareness around the many children who call the family car home. These kids wake up in their car and head off to school to return to a car that may or may not be in the same place. My family has first-hand experience with homelessness, and I believe it’s important that we join together to help homeless families move out of their cars and into permanent, affordable housing.

Inspired in part by my family’s story, One Night in a Car is a unique opportunity to taste the reality lived by hundreds of school-aged kids across east Pierce County – and the means to change it. More than an experience, One Night will directly impact kids’ lives in the context of community. Partner organizations have assembled a one-of-a-kind experience – a thought-provoking simulation of family poverty with a twist. Funds raised will directly help families out of homelessness. PLEASE join us Friday to Saturday, Aug. 22-23, at Meridian Habitat Park in Puyallup. Learn more and register at

Our Story

Many years ago, a CEO at a local mission told me that whenever you see a homeless person panhandling, he or she is there by choice because there are plenty of programs for people experiencing homelessness. With this understanding, though my husband and I have always been involved in our community, I never considered volunteering for any organizations that served the homeless – it just didn’t hit home for me.

Florida Outreach Program Helps Homeless Families Cope

Photo courtesy of Seattle University School of Theology & Ministry

 A year ago everything changed; our youngest daughter, a single mom with three children, became homeless. She had been working as a medical administrative assistant for more than five years when she became ill. Not able to work, she tried taking a two-week unpaid leave of absence. After two weeks, she still couldn’t work, so she lost her job. Without pay, she lost her home and eventually lost her car. Like many families, we didn’t have the space or resources to bring them into our home. On Mother’s Day 2013, I helped her pack up her stuff, reassuring her that I had learned that if we call 211 they would be able to help us.

I made the call, expecting to get positive news. Instead I heard, “Due to budget cuts, a lot of the past programs are no longer available. We can give you addresses where your daughter and her three children can park and sleep in their car, just for one night at a time.” My heart dropped. They also told me to go to Associated Ministries to get the family on the roster as “homeless.”

As I tried to hold back the tears, I consoled myself thinking that by registering the family on the list as homeless, we would get some help. Instead, I found out that most people on the list don’t receive housing for close to a year.

So what to do in the meantime? We were told to contact the Recuse Mission’s Adams Street Family Campus in Puyallup Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. If there were any openings we could expect a call back between 10 a.m. and noon. For several months we faithfully called each day, but never received a call back.

With few options left, we decided to visit the Adams Street Family Campus to see if that would help get the family into the program. We learned that Adams Street has an open shelter facility which consists of a big room where anyone who is homeless can come at 7 p.m., get a meal, have a cot to sleep on. The cots are placed very close together to accommodate more people, and then you get up the next day and leave. At least people experiencing homelessness are out of the elements…but this was not a place for my daughter and three grandbabies.


We learned that the program also manages a separate building for families. These include several units that have one bedroom, a small living/eating area and bathroom. While the units are small, at least the family isn’t living in their car. We shared that we had been calling every day during the week asking if there were any openings in the Family Units and had never received a call back. The shelter staff explained that every day, between 8 – 10 a.m. they receive more than 200 calls from families asking for emergency shelter at Adams Street. Many of those families have been trying to get into the program for 8 months to a year!

My daughter was forced to make the difficult decision to split up the family, sending each of the children to a different family member while she stayed in her car.

Reaching Out

Toward the end of October 2013, I confided in a neighbor friend about our struggles. She mentioned Helping Hand House. I began volunteering, hoping to learn more about the agency and what services were available to families in need. I began to realize we were not the only families in trouble. While this wasn’t necessarily a relief, it helped us not feel so alone.

Helping Hand House

We were lucky; Helping Hand House helped my daughter and her children move into one of their Emergency Shelter Homes. What great news! My daughter immediately gathered up all three children from different family members who were keeping them safe to take them to the Emergency Shelter Home.

As they walked up to the house, my daughter told the children that this was their new home for now. Their eyes welled up with tear of happiness. First thing, my eight-year-old grandson ran upstairs to see the bedrooms and bathrooms and asked “Mommy, can I take a shower?” His brother looked into the refrigerator to see the food. That night, after being separated for so long they didn’t want to be apart so they pushed the beds together and slept peacefully. What a good sleep they must have had that night…I know I did, knowing that they finally had a place to go.

Hope for the Future

My hope is that with more funding and awareness, every homeless family can have access to emergency shelter, and get the counseling they need and the tools to become self-sufficient. Housing those who are homeless and getting them to become productive citizens in the community makes a lot more sense than just looking the other way and doing nothing.

 To learn more about Helping Hand House visit  

Helping Hand House | Preventing & Ending Family Homelessness in Tacoma, Puyallup & Pierce County, WA