In early October, St. Francis House reopened in a welcoming new building in Seattle better designed to meet its mission, which is to provide 13,000 vulnerable people each year with a sense of community, help them with their basic needs and serve them with respect. Here, Laura Young, executive director of St. Francis House, discusses the nonprofit’s new home, its November campaign and how readers can help Seattle’s homeless population.
What is the mission of St. Francis House? St. Francis House is established in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi to be a presence in Seattle to serve those in need and to inspire simplicity and charity in its volunteers and those they serve.
What prompted the start of the nonprofit? A group of moms united in the 1960’s to improve racial tensions in the Central District of Seattle by collecting donations for the distribution of free clothing and coffee, basically [forming] a house of peace and charity.
What is the greatest reward in being involved with the nonprofit? The relationships I develop with our clients, volunteers and staff. A simple act of kindness can have a dramatic effect on people.
What is the biggest challenge the nonprofit faces? Has the pandemic affected the needs of St. Francis House? We’ve fallen off the footpath of a lot of our clients since we were closed and/or at very reduced capacity during the pandemic and our redevelopment. It’s been a slow start since we re-opened last month, but we are hopeful old and new clients will find us and be welcomed home (the name of our capital campaign) once again.
Tell us about the new building. Together, St. Francis House and Plymouth Housing worked to build 100 units of housing for the chronically homeless. Plymouth Housing in turn sold St. Francis House a 7,500-sq.-ft. commercial unit on the street level to serve as our new home. The functional design of the new building reflects St. Francis House’s service model and will increase service to community members with key design features:
- Large community gathering place with modern amenities
- Beautiful outdoor courtyard
- Personalized shopping experience
- Confidential meeting rooms
- Enhanced security
- Additional space for programmatic needs
- Sustainable energy efficiencies
What are your goals for the remainder of 2022? To get a phone line! Currently, development is outpacing infrastructure, so we still don’t have one. We also hope to iron out as many wrinkles as possible with our operational model including our new database. Finally, we want to get the word out to our clients that we are open again in a beautiful new space that was designed just for them and their dignity.
How can readers help? We are always looking for volunteers to help our clients with their shopping experiences, serve in our hospitality cafe or sort donations. We are open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can also help by donating men’s or children’s clothing, household items, diapers or toiletries. Finally, we always welcome food donations like sandwiches that we can serve our clients. This is a fun and easy way for kids to help as well.
Does the foundation have any events or fundraisers on the horizon? In November, we will launch our annual campaign, which you can read about at www.stfrancishouseseattle.org. Finally, we are happy to give tours to anybody interested. It’s our favorite thing to do!