Living in a shelter with her three young children and another baby on the way, Luvissa needed a place she could call home.
After fleeing a domestic violence situation, she found herself at the shelter struggling to get her kids up at 4 a.m. every day so they could be out by the mandated 6 a.m. time. They would wander local parks or transit parking garages until it was time for the older kids to start school. Securing a slot for shower time at the shelter was never guaranteed.
“It was challenging,” said Luvissa. “My kids, they are troopers and they are survivors…but it was really hard.”
Today, Luvissa and her children have their own apartment and access to resources at Gardner House and the Allen Family Center, which offer permanent supportive housing and a one-stop service hub for King County families, particularly those experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.
“Families experiencing homelessness are sometimes described as invisible – hidden from view and underrepresented in official counts. Gardner House and Allen Family Center prioritize families with a two-pronged approach offering family-sized housing and services to help families avoid or exit homelessness,” said Jody Allen, co-founder and chair of the Paul G. Allen Foundation. “Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Gardner House has been able to welcome more than ninety families to their new homes, while the nonprofit organizations at the Allen Family Center quickly pivoted to delivering services virtually where needed. It’s partnerships like these that will help build lasting solutions to homelessness in our community.”
Gardner House and Allen Family Center were designed in response to the crisis of family homelessness in King County, Washington. The Allen Family Center was co-designed by nonprofit service providers based on input from families experiencing homelessness. At the center there is no wrong door for families to find help, and the goal is to help break through service fragmentation, making it simpler to access services.
Service providers at Allen Family Center include Child Care Resources, Mary’s Place, Mercy Housing Northwest, and Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) and services include diversion, housing placement, and homelessness prevention, help in securing affordable and culturally appropriate childcare, job navigation, mental and behavior health services, financial stability, health education, and immigrant and refugee family-centered services.
Other resources on hand include a technology center, a resource room, a food pantry, and space for community events and social gatherings.
From the beginning stages of planning to opening the doors, partnership has been at the heart of both Gardner House and Allen Family Center, starting with the public-private funding partnership between the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the City of Seattle and continuing with the ongoing partnership between the nonprofit service providers, working to assist families.
There are 94 families currently living in Gardner House, including Luvissa and her children. For her, it’s important that the neighborhood and the city of Seattle look out for one another and reach out to those who may be going through a challenging time.
“There are a lot of people who are homeless and struggling and you just don’t know it,” said Luvissa. “Love your neighbors. We’re all equal and we’re all in this together.”