Finding a Way Home for Families in Seattle

Jul 02, 2012

The Seattle community has been dedicated to helping poor and homeless families for decades: providing meals and investing in shelters, short-term housing and long-term housing. Still, Evelyn Allen, Director of Village Spirit Center, a program of Catholic Housing Services (CHS), which has been serving communities in crisis for 95 years, noticed seven years ago that efforts in Seattle and the surrounding King County area were falling short of addressing the root the causes of homelessness.

Allen and others at CHS know that homeless families, which make up 55 percent of King County’s homeless, needed more than a place to stay for a night or a month; more than one meal in their belly before moving on. They focused on an approach that breaks the historical and generational cycle of poverty in Seattle and help families’ transition from the streets permanently, with a particular emphasis on minority communities who are disproportionately impacted by homelessness in the area.

CHS constructed Monica’s Village Place, a long-term housing option for families that are homeless or at risk of homelessness, with critical funding from Bank of America.

“Bank of America is known for having the value of reinvesting in the community,” Allen said. “We were aware they have that as their mission.”

Monica’s Village was erected through a $17.2 million public-private partnership effort - receiving funding from several state and city programs and with Bank of America lending $11 million to the development – $5.6 million was in low-income tax credit equity, and another $6 million was in construction loans. 

With approximately 51 units, housing between 150 – 160 individuals including children, Monica’s Village is helping families start fresh and is dedicated to helping this population find a place to live, along with the relevant training and job assistance that can act as a permanent solution for the families who need relief most.

Monica's Village means stability. It’s a place where it makes you become more responsible and independent,” said Heather Perin, a 31-one-year-old mother of one who lives at Monica’s Village. “It allows room for growth in whatever you're trying to do as a mom, and it gives you the benefits to raise your children in a positive, stable environment.” 

Monica’s Village is a joyful place; the secure outdoor play area is often filled with the familiar sounds of children playing as parents watch nearby. It has also become its own community within the Central Seattle neighborhood, designed to encourage people to know and support each other.

“This is a place of healing for families who have had a difficult journey,” said Allen, who has been with CHS for 20 years. “We’re trying to break the generational element of the poverty cycle.”

Catholic Community Services met with several banks before deciding on financing with Bank of America, which offered a proposal that was designed to offer the greatest financial outcome for the project, Allen said. It made the project possible, and the complex process of financing a major housing project less painful, she said.

“Seattle is a vibrant city, with people from all walks of life,” said Jan Laskey, senior vice president for Bank of America Community Development Banking. “But not all have the same opportunities; it is critical that the community support struggling and homeless families. Seattle has a shortage of safe, clean, affordable housing, and this project helps fill that gap by offering families housing and tools for a permanent step out of poverty.”

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