Steves donating Trinity Place housing complex for homeless women, kids to YWCA

Rick Steves at a summer barbecue with Trinity Place residents. (Photo courtesy Rick Steves and Trinity Place).

Edmonds-based European travel expert Rick Steves dropped in on the Edmonds Rotary Noon Club’s meeting last week to make a surprise announcement: He is donating the Trinity Place transitional housing complex, which he has owned and operated in partnership with the Rotary and the YWCA since 2005, to the YWCA.

“It was just shocked silence for a moment,” said Rotary President Doug Lofstrom, “but then the room burst into applause, cheering and a standing ovation.”

As noted in our May 2013 story, Steves said his motivation to create Trinity Place was “self-interest.” “I don’t want to be filthy rich in a desperately poor world. I want to walk the street safely, leave the car unlocked, see people take their kids to school and have them play sports without fear of gangs.” Saying it’s in the best interest of citizens to take care of all residents, Steves noted not doing so would be “pennywise and pound foolish.”

“People say we have an economic crisis,” said Steves, “but it’s a crisis of distribution, not societal wealth.” Tired of hearing people say homeless mothers should “work harder,” he decided to help our “most innocent victims,” by finding a place for them to call home.

It began with his 1990 purchase of a dilapidated duplex adjacent to Trinity Lutheran Church, and offering the use of it to Pathways for Women, a local non-profit that works with the YWCA to house local homeless moms and their kids. In subsequent years, the three adjacent duplexes came up for sale, and Steves dutifully purchased these and added them to the project.

But by 2002 the old buildings had deteriorated to where they could no longer be maintained.

“I’d hoped to demolish them and build a new 16-unit building on that site,” Steves said. “But the devil is in the details, and it soon became clear that the costs of planning, permitting and construction were higher than we’d anticipated.”

In response, Steves searched for and ultimately found a 24-unit building just down the road in central Lynnwood. “It was a no-brainer,” Steves said. “We could get the building and the land for what it would have cost to build a new 16-unit structure on the existing site, where we didn’t even own the land!”

After purchasing the building in April 2005, Steves partnered with Pathways and the YWCA to help manage the facility, and the Noon Rotary Club to renovate the units and provide ongoing support. By Thanksgiving of that year, Trinity Place was ready, and the first group of single mothers and their children moved in just in time to celebrate the holiday.

Edmonds Rotary Noon Club member Beth Westenhaver-Kealy, left, assists Bill Toskey with the distribution of 26 school backpacks to children living at Trinity Place in August 2015. (Photo courtesy Carol Kinney)

“This has been an ongoing commitment for our Rotary club,” Lofstrom said. “We’ve helped secure grant money for needed upgrades to railings, lighting, children’s play areas, security systems and more. We’ve also donated prodigious amounts of labor for general maintenance, and even organized barbecues and kid birthday parties for the residents. Over the years Trinity Place has become a signature effort of this club.”

“This could never have happened without the hours and hours of work put in by Rotary members,” Steves added. “Their partnership has been absolutely critical to the success of Trinity Place.”

While his original plan was to will Trinity Place to the YWCA, Steves decided the time was right to make it an outright donation. “Organizations function best with stability,” he said. “In these unstable times you never know what’s going to happen. By gifting this now, the YWCA gains the certainly that comes with ownership, and is in a better position to plan for their future.”

But for Steves, there’s a personal side too.

“I think wills are boring and a little too cautious,” he said with a laugh. “And besides, for me it’s simply more helpful and rewarding to do it now. The joy and satisfaction I get from helping house desperate mothers and kids, and cushioning them from the austerity that the Trump administration could bring to this community far outstrips any monetary return I might have gained from holding onto it. What will bring more joy — that’s the critical Litmus test.”

— By Larry Vogel


  1. Thank you Rick It has been a rewarding experience working for Trinity Place as a member of the noon Rotary Club.

    Your generosity is greatly appreciated. I hope others will follow your leadership.

  2. I always watch his travel shows. I cannot go but I can see a lot of the world with him on PBS. How wonderful of him to give so much to those who struggle and have such hard times raising their children alone.

  3. I was really enjoying the story and his thought process right up to the point when he decided he had to take a political swipe at the republicans – turned an otherwise excellent effort into one big FAIL !

    1. He actually didn’t take a political swipe at the Repubicans. Learn to read critically but accurately. He commented about the Trump administration. Not all Republicans are mindless followers of the current administration. Some of us think for ourselves. Comments like yours (and very likely thinking like yours) makes our political party look nasty. Please don’t lump me in with your mob of rabble-rousers, bullies and haters. Raised Republican in a red state, I still have sense enough to recognize and applaud a note-worthy kind and generous act toward fellow humans!! I say way to go, Rick Steves!

      1. Maybe I am the fail. But I’m not afraid of failing. It’s how we all grow and learn. And I’m not only open, but committed to growing and learning. I’m secure enough, intelligent enough, strong enough and confident enough in myself to recognize that we all fail sometimes. I can handle it. And I don’t need to call other folks names out of my own insecurities and fears. No worries. So sure, let’s wait and see.

        In the meantime I wonder if, rather than attacking others, maybe you might share with the forum the kindest most generous thing you every did for another human person, or any living thing for that matter? I’m sure you’ve done lots of unselfish and kind things. Maybe you don’t have buildings to donate–or maybe you do–but what’s the nicest thing you’ve ever done? Tell me about that…

  4. I feel blessed to have Rick in our community. Whether or not one agrees with all his attitudes, he certainly puts his money where his mouth is. Let’s give credit where it is due. Thank you, Rick.

  5. So proud to be a part of the support
    group for Rick and Trinity Place. Single
    mothers need all the help they can get
    to raise our future citizens

  6. Mr. Steves is a treasure to our community. Thank you, Rick, for your generosity and thoughtfullness especially at this time when we need role models in our society.

  7. Wow what an incredible gift Rick you’re truly a special man!! I love your out look on life, so kind hearted & loving to others , someone who is really making a difference!! You Rock ❤

  8. WOW. in this time of so much worry you lift our spirits Like our own Nicholas Kristoff and his
    wife. We should have a blog of Heros and Sheros to remind us of you, and of our own compassionate
    values.. lovely to read about your gift this Passover Jeanne

  9. Mr Steves,
    I was greatly moved by your help for single mothers. I am writing this because my daughter a single working mom,grand and I are in a situation where we are in need of a permanent place to live. I will go into detail if you think you could help this family. I will say we were forced out of our apartment in August and are in serious need of a permanent place to live.

  10. Mr. Steves,

    First, I just want to thank you forever for being a kind soul and decent human thinking of as the Bible says “the least” in our community. Secondly, I reside in Charlotte N.C. and there is a great need for affordable housing here for women who are struggling to get on their feet. I would like to be that bridge to invest in their lives by following your God sent path in doing so. I will leave my forwarding information how I may be contacted, thank you in advance and GOD BLESS YOU!

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