Lake City Partners ending homelessness

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Stanley Machokoto holds the 2019 Outstanding Human Services Program award at the NUHSA ceremony last year while the Lake City Partners smile. Photo courtesy North Urban Human Services

Lake City Partners has been named as the lead agency to manage the proposed 60 bed homeless shelter in the former nursing home at 163rd and Aurora. They have a long-time presence in Lake City and were recipients of NUSHA's 2019 Outstanding Human Services Program.

Lake City Partners Ending Homelessness

  • Who Are They?
  • What Do They Do?

By Donna Hawkey

Lake City Partners Ending Homelessness is no stranger to the City of Shoreline. Their work goes beyond the Lake City neighborhood. In 2019, through their Shoreline Housing Outreach program, Lake City Partners helped 73 Shoreline households get into housing, including families with children. 

Just last quarter, they assisted 17 Shoreline children whose parents are struggling. They see the growing needs of both families and individuals, and the City of Shoreline recognizes this trend. Once the infectious disease COVID-19 arrived, another level of caring for everyone’s health and safety was required.

As of January 2020, King County counted 11,751 people experiencing homelessness, a 5% increase over the previous year. 53% of those people are unsheltered. Demographically, this composes 7% of the total population and disproportionately affects people of color. 25% of the homeless individuals counted are Black. Native Americans and Alaska Natives are 1% of the total population and are 15% of the 2020 homeless count. This number, 11,751 is a single night count for King county and is likely an undercount. 
Graph from National Alliance to End Homelessness Report

This graph shows a national picture of all the financially struggling households. 

There is a small percentage of homeless; however, many more households are at risk or live in poverty. 

So households experiencing homelessness are not significantly different than other low-income families.

(40% of the US homeless population are under the age of 18 with the highest rates occurring in Western US.)

This year, Colleen Kelly, Recreation, Cultural and Community Services Director, City of Shoreline, was tasked with finding solutions for homeless individuals. While there are various shelters for families, there is little available for individuals. 

Federal Department of Commerce funds became available to King county at the same time that a local  nursing home with 60 rooms at NW 163rd and Aurora Ave in Shoreline came up for sale. The funds are available to create a shelter but it has to be operational by the end of the year. 

The nursing home is a perfect facility as the individual rooms allow for COVID-19 protection as well as being able to house people in rooms that allow for privacy and dignity to develop stability in their lives.

“The City of Shoreline is deeply committed to taking on the challenge of homelessness in our community, but it is no less committed to ensuring that all of our neighborhoods are safe and healthy,” stated Shoreline Mayor Will Hall. 
“We believe this shelter can provide a needed service to our community while also being a good neighbor.” (See previous article “Shoreline collaborates with Lake City Partners on 24/7 enhanced shelter”)

Lake City Partners had already built a relationship with Shoreline through its successful winter shelter program that runs from November through March. 

The Lake City Partners winter shelter rotates monthly among various congregations including Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Shoreline. They have been a host since the program’s inception in 2012. 

Each community church welcomes up to 30 nightly guests that include hot meals, bus tickets, and trained staff to help with a multitude of support needs. Those needs range from helping someone fill out an application for housing, determining appropriate referrals for services, and providing a crucial human connection through a caring hand and heart during the traumatic effects of becoming homeless. 

Melanie Neufeld, Director
Lake City Partners

Melanie Neufeld is the Director of Lake City Partners Ending Homelessness and a Minister at Seattle Mennonite Church. She has been forging community relationship-building in the Lake City Neighborhood and beyond for 14 years. 

She says that is how the organization evolved, and today it’s mainly word of mouth referrals. It started as a Lake City Taskforce in 2005, and in 2015, Lake City Partners to End Homelessness was established by the Taskforce.

Pastor Pam Russell, Prince of Peace, describes Ms. Neufeld as “tremendously talented, and I am in awe of how wonderful she is.”

Ms. Neufeld has worked in the non-profit sector for 24 years, specializing in social work and community development. 

Her training includes understanding shelter best practices with the National Alliance to End Homelessness. She is a Lake City resident who shows an unrelenting passion for those that become homeless and for social justice issues.

She says, “Harms need to be addressed and especially as we look through a racial equity lens. If we can’t help our most vulnerable population, how can we ever become a healthy society? COVID-19 has also given us a lens as to how we are all so connected; this disease knows no city, state, or country boundaries.”

Here are Ms. Neufeld’s answers to several interview questions.

What does the word “Partner” in your organization name stand for?

We are made up of many organizations working together. We refer to these groups as partners and they are represented on the board of directors and participate through the Lake City Taskforce on Homelessness which continues to meet monthly.

Your mission is to end homelessness. How do you do that?

We do that by housing one person, one family at a time. Affordable housing is at the forefront of solving homelessness. Without shelter, it’s difficult for a person to get restorative sleep, so how can we expect this person to go to work when they live in survival mode? And when people get the kind of services they need, a large portion of people will self-resolve to exit homelessness for good.

How did the Lake City Neighborhood initially respond about the development of the congregation of shelters?

At first, as most communities do, there are many fears about shelters. Public safety is always a top concern. As we build trust and strong relationships through community dialog and unity, we become an asset as the residents see positive results. As a community partner, I attend monthly neighborhood task force meetings and meetings with groups such as Building Lake City Together. We work together to solve the challenges towards a very worthy goal.

What are some examples of how you go about finding permanent housing?

First, we ask that person where they slept the night before and whether they can go back to that place, and we start the dialogue from there. Sometimes it is just a matter of helping that person get back to their family living outside our state, but a homeless person has no money to return.

Or that person lost their job and could no longer pay the rent, or they need to buy their car tabs. We work a lot with United Way’s Streets to Home program, which has established flexible funding that provides a bridge of solutions for various situations. There are many reasons a person becomes homeless, and there are numerous programs out there to help, but access can be difficult for someone who doesn’t own a computer or even own a mobile phone. And the system can be quite complex to navigate.

Every community is concerned about drug use and appropriate behavior. Please comment.

Let me be clear; there is no tolerance for drug use at our shelters or disrespectful behavior! We expect all residents to be home by 10:00pm. We follow the harm reduction theory, which allows for a tapering of drug use through pharmaceuticals and is overseen by their medical providers. But there is no usage of illicit drugs at our shelters. If that happens, that person is not a good fit for our program, and we quickly find them another place with the support they need.

Shelter staff

Then how do you go about finding a “good fit” for your program?

That happens in various ways, including referrals from Shoreline Police, fire and parks department. About 2-1/2 years ago, we started a program called Shoreline Housing Outreach. A full-time housing specialist, Stanley Machokoto, assists in this public work to walk the streets of Shoreline with the purpose to connect people to housing and other services necessary for survival.

How is the Housing Outreach funded, and when did it start?

The program started in May 2018. King County jointly funds it with 20% of matching funds from the City of Shoreline. Housing Outreach started with a small group of concerned citizens, including Pastor Russell, a current board member. It’s been very successful.

Was this King County’s answer to moving homeless people from Seattle to the nearby suburbs?

Absolutely not. King County is a national champion making housing the first priority, and they have done a lot in the Seattle area to establish this reputation. For instance, in Lake City, we have McDermott Place (75 apartments), which includes 38 units for veterans and Valor Apartments, 21 units for veterans.

McDermott Place by Eugene Shibayama

Mc Dermott Place is named in honor of Washington state congressman Jim McDermott, a strong and successful advocate for affordable housing. Services here include not only housing but the means to access education and employment services.

Is there a religious component to your programs?

No, there is not. It is the churches that have welcomed these shelters, and with a built-in volunteer congregation base, it’s easy to get things like emergency meals made and delivered in a flash. It’s incredible support that we require in these times and are so lucky to have.

How did Lake City Partners Ending Homelessness evolve?

We started as a group of faith-based and neighborhood organizations that saw the needs right before our eyes. Labor Ready had moved into the Lake City community, and suddenly, there was a need for showers, backpacks, and sandwiches to bring to work.

God’s Li’l Acre Day Center

That is how the program God’s Li’l Acre got started. 

Today, we oversee the God’s Li’l Acre Day Center that provides a hot shower, laundry facility, a community kitchen, internet and phone access, resource referrals, nursing care, clothing.

Beyond this work and our other programs mentioned, relationships and financial support from the Cities of Shoreline, Kenmore, and Bothell have developed due to increased community needs.

Do you think you are the right organization to manage an enhanced shelter, such as the one in consideration on Aurora Ave?

I feel we are a good match as we understand the single adult population, and we’ve had lots of neighborhood experience in Lake City. 

We are a small non-profit that has accomplished a lot with little staffing, so I feel confident we are ready and able. And I would look forward to working further with the City of Shoreline and neighbors and residents to make an enhanced shelter a safe place for all.

What would you do if you had unlimited funds?

I would buy housing, housing, housing, that is the first step. We don’t have enough of that, and with the price of housing now, I would need unlimited funds for sure.

Do you have any other future goals?

We are very concerned about a homeless person when discharged from a hospital setting and have no physical and mental health support when they leave. We have partnered with Seattle University College of Nursing and have a vision of working with hospitals to assure that released patients will get the help they need. It is very distressing for the health care workers as well, and some say it is the most stressful part of their job when they have to release a patient who has no home or family.

Leaves memorial - a leaf for each person who dies on the streets

Is there anything else you want the community to know?

Yes, the Leaves of Remembrance initiative started by Women in Black that has unfortunately grown, too. Bronze leaves embedded into city right of ways/streets with an inscription of the names of those who have died while living outside have 17 locations throughout King County. Each Leaf is to honor that person, and a website tells their story in honor of their life. 

Tree of Life sculpture

There is a Tree of Life sculpture north of Pike Place Market in Victor Steinbrueck park, the Leaves' companion. I hope one day we won’t ever need any more Leaves. 

In 2019, 58 human Leaves fell. Here is a list of the people who died.

More information about Lake City Partners Ending Homelessness here


Unknown September 20, 2020 at 4:43 PM  

I don't see any thing on experience operating a Low Barrier shelter for single men and woman How do you figure you will have better results than others with this type of facility

Unknown June 3, 2021 at 6:04 AM  

That is crazy I thought I would never read something like that but you know that's a person that has negative in them and not positive because they really don't want to see anybody helping the homeless really you know but for one thing I can tell you these people that already got you shelter going they're really kind and they have hospitality and respect and for one thing yes you know got a little acres that's one a lot apart of lake City is because if it wasn't for some people that I know you know it wouldn't be there and it's still there and it's been there for years a few years and it's still going good so you know keep the negative out have a little bit of positive just to let you know I'm a different person now I'm not the old person I used to be cuz you know what I'm going to that shelter and we'll have a new life with or without you because God is my heart and God is watches me wherever I go everyday

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