On West Main Street, a huge cut in the earth indicates the size of the development coming to the location; at 47 units, Monroe Family Village will be the second-largest multifamily housing complex in Monroe.
The problem the project will help to solve is much larger, though a lot harder to see. Homelessness and housing insecurity affect hundreds of families in the Sky Valley, only a few of which are visible on the streets; many live in cars, on the couches of friends, or in substandard housing.
Now community members can help address that issue along with Housing Hope, the organization constructing Monroe Family Village, in a number of ways as the year-long project proceeds toward completion, and after.
Housing Hope is a Snohomish County non-profit founded in 1987 that works to help create access to safe, stable affordable housing for low income county residents.
The organization is very active in the Sky Valley, and the completion of the project at West Monroe, which will include transitional housing for homeless families and long-term below-market rent housing for low-income families, will bring the number of Housing Hope units to 150 between Monroe and Sultan.
Monroe Family Village, which will include services for residents such as money management counseling and parenting classes, will cost about $12.7 million to build, making it the single largest project ever undertaken by Housing Hope.
Most of that will come from private financing, public and private grants, tax credit investors and other sources. But Housing Hope is planning to raise at least $50,000 in the Sky Valley, the region that will most benefit.
Community members interested in pitching in while enjoying an excellent dinner and fun evening are invited to Adam’s Northwest Bistro in Monroe for a gourmet dinner Monday night, July 28.
Tickets are $100 each for the four-course meal. Each course, including appetizer, salad, entree and dessert, includes a wine pairing.
The event is focused on raising support for the development as well as part of the $35,000 needed to install the playground at the community complex, which will include eight attractive garden-style buildings.
“There will be a four-minute appeal after dinner so folks can raise their hands at different levels to raise direct support for the playground,” said Philanthropy Manager Nate Greenland. “Playgrounds and play in general is so huge for children’s development. We want to give the local community a chance to provide support for that healing and development to happen.”
Buy a paver
For people and businesses who want a lasting legacy in Monroe, decorative granite pavers for the housing complex are available for $100 each and can be engraved with the name or message of your choice.
“Those will be prominently displayed along the sidewalk, just like at Pike Place Market, where it’s fun to wander around and look at the names and loo for people you know,” said Greenland.
Also, for those wanting to take a larger support role, round stone benches can be engraved and placed on the premises at the $1,000 level.
To learn more, stop by the building site on West Main Street and find a brochure in a Real Estate box there, or visit the Housing Hope website at www.housinghope.org, where information is on the home page.
Last year, during construction of the similar but much smaller Woods Creek Village project of Fremont Street, in a single day more than 100 people turned out to help complete the project, working on building the monument sign, spreading wood chips for the playground, landscaping and more. In all, they contributed about $15,000 worth of labor that day.
There will be a similar effort at Monroe Family Village, probably next spring.
There will be three main projects for “Raise a Village 2.”
One will be to help install the playground.
Another will be to paint a “futsal” field. Futsal is a form of soccer played on a small field, developed in Brazil and Uruguay; Seattle has had a league since 2009.
“It is crazy popular around the world,” said Greenland. “We would love to even see some local soccer clubs with a vision to organize games or teams with Monroe Family Village.”
The third project will be a community garden.
“Onsite community gardens can play a wonderful role in our families’ growth and development.,” said Greenalnd. “Kids learn where food comes from. It meets a basic need of nutrition, and like the playground, it provides an avenue and vehicle for families to engage with each other.”
A large part of the goal of the service-enriched housing provided at Monroe Family Village, beyond the many life-skills classes that residents can take on site and at Monroe’s Take the Next Step, will be to help families that have been in crisis for a long time learn to switch from survival mode to learning to live in a community.
“There’s an African proverb; if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together,” said Greenland. “We want to teach our clients that part of having a healthy family life comes through building relationships, watching each other’s kids, and just plain getting to know your neighbors.
Gardening and pantry support
Once the building and grounds are complete, there will be ongoing ways for the community to support the project to reduce homelessness and assist families to productive lives.
One of those is to volunteer in the community garden.
“When families are transitioning out of homelessness, sometimes tending to a garden is pretty low on our families’ priority list, so having committed volunteers to cast the vision and help sustain the the garden along can be a powerful thing,” said Greenland.
And in Stanwood, at two such developments, a group of women from the community have taken on the job of keeping the emergency pantry stocked.
“They have taken ownership of the pantry, to see that it remains stocked with diapers and wipes and household cleaning supplies, a few non-perishable food items, blankets and what not,” said Greenland. “Our case managers work with our families on creating realistic monthly budgets, but sometimes emergencies arise and, at our case managers’ discretion, the family can say, ‘We did our best, but this came up and surprised us. We need help with toothpaste and toilet paper.’”
Housing Hope is looking for people and groups who might be willing to sponsor such a pantry for a one-year commitment.
A win/win for community, families
To help Housing Hope is to help families like that of Clint and Tammy* in Sultan.
Neither had finished high school, but they both had jobs and they had a car. Then the recession hit, said Greenland.
“They both in short order lost their jobs,” said Greenland.
Tammy got part time work as a barista, but it wasn’t enough to make rent, so they wound renting a substandard mobile home.
“The water didn’t work, so sometimes they had to go to the creek to get water out and boil it for clean water. There was a hole in the floor, too,” said Greenland.
But neither had enough assertiveness or people skills to demand that the landlord comply with the law and make the repairs needed to bring the home up to code. Rather, they stopped paying the rent; legal in Washington, but only if the tenant sets up an account and puts the rent in it until such time as repairs are made.
Clint and Tammy didn’t know about the account law, and got evicted. They couch surfed on friends’ and relatives homes for about a year, moving on once the welcome was worn out for them and their 2 small kids.
Fortunately, they were able to get into Winters Creek, a Housing Hope development in Sultan.
Their case manager graciously hounded them to earn their GEDs. Neither believed they were capable, but when Clint took the GED without even studying, he got 100 percent on all but one of the subjects.
“He was a smart guy, but when you don’t have confidence or hope that clouds and colors everything,” said Greenland. “His confidence just shot up.”
The next job he applied for, as a welder, he got. Tammy got her GED too, and since then, they’ve moved into their own place in Lake Stevens, on their own and doing well. “Those are the stories we’re working toward. We want to break the cycle of poverty for our families and their children,” said Greenland.
Outcomes like that benefit everyone in the community. But the project will do more than that; it is estimated that it will bring millions in economic support to the area in terms of jobs, contracts for local businesses, builders, and more.
To learn more about Housing Hope, visit www.housinghope.org.
To make reservations for Housing Hope’s dinner at Adam’s Northwest Bistro, call 425-347-6556 x239.
*Names changed for privacy