Harmed yet not harmful.
Quiet but not silent.
Have tripped, yet will never fall.
The women you see before you are women without a home, not homeless women.
Strong, brave, cultured, passionate, and surviving.
And all with a center full of hope
- - Former resident of Center of Hope
The poem above exemplifies the essence of our organization: a safe place where “homelessness” is redefined by acts of compassion and appreciation for our residents’ resilience. A place where hope can be restored. Volunteering with Center of Hope is different. There are no institutional barriers or regulations to hinder our ability to support the families and individuals who choose to stay with us.
How is Center of Hope different?
The rules at the shelter are simply to check in before 10pm each night and check out in the morning by 8am, eat food only in the designated eating room, and no strangers in their rooms. Otherwise, residents are free to make their rooms as comfortable as they like because the shelter is not just a shelter. It is a home.
Toni Booker (Staff, UW Information Technology) emphasizes the notion of family as a unique aspect of COH: “Having assigned sleeping rooms and being able to leave your things in a safe place (and not have to worry about them getting stolen) is a huge difference. You also get to know each family. A camaraderie is formed. COH allows the families to use the microwave and there's a place to store their food. We also have a "homework table" where school agers can sit together and complete their school assignments. Volunteers are available to tutor and read to the preschoolers. Another uniqueness is this: we offer them rest. Spiritually, mentally, as well as physically.”
Battle to Campaign with Huskies at Center of Hope
COH is program of REACH . Together, REACH and the staff at COH work with the city of Renton to form strong alliances between the city government, churches, and other non-profit organizations in order to make forward strides in the battle against homelessness. In doing so, we had a role in decreasing the number of homeless children in Renton into single digits in one year - from 19 unsheltered children to 5!
The notion of growth holds a strong presence at the shelter and is often seen in the progress families make towards finding housing and jobs, as well as within the insights gained by volunteers during their shifts. At Center of Hope, there is room for genuine personable communication between volunteers and families. As a result, opportunities are created for the emergence of understanding and compassion.
Current and past students of the University of Washington contribute to that open communication at the shelter. From helping kids with homework to helping mothers further their career endeavors, there is no limit to what volunteers can help with. In this era of technological advances in communication methods and acute attention to social media, it is important that the next generation of leaders remember that the values of listening and patience still play a critical role in making change happen. By immersing themselves into an environment that views residents not as “homeless” but as “people”, any preconceived notion volunteers had during their first shift at COH is re-shaped by personal interactions with residents. Homelessness is an intricate social issue to solve; however, better understanding regarding how diverse situations of homelessness can be - and how they evolve - provides a broadened context for solutions to be built upon.
Volunteers are involved in every aspect of making the shelter feel more like a home. We comfort residents on their first night. We rejoice and celebrate when they are invited for interviews. We are there to send them off on their last night as they move into their new place. We are invited to support families on their journey and hear about their frustrations and challenges. We are the listeners. We get to be the helpers.
Volunteering with COH is a humble opportunity to be part of one city’s solution to homelessness. We hear, firsthand, how our residents want to be supported. When we hear about homelessness, we see the mothers and children of COH - the ones who are still here and the ones who have moved on - but most notably, we know hope can be restored.
To learn more or volunteer, contact Laurie Rossnagel at firstname.lastname@example.org or Pearl Nguyen at email@example.com or , or go to reachrenton.org.