A Lynnwood-based foundation and a local church are partnering with a Seattle company to provide portable housing units for homeless college students and those attending work-training programs.
Pallet, a Seattle-based Social Purpose Corporation, is working in conjunction with the Jean Kim Foundation for the Homeless Education and Lynnwood’s Good Shepherd Baptist Church to build a six-unit, fenced-in community on the church grounds.
For the past two years the church — in partnership with the Jean Kim Foundation — has been hosting an encampment for people experiencing homelessness. The foundation, established in 2015, offers six options to support students who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness. This includes helping students enroll in college and connecting them to apprenticeship, vocational skills and literacy programs. (See our earlier story to learn more.)
Good Shepherd Pastor Christopher Boyer said he has already seen a change in those who have found shelter in the community known as Shepherd’s Village, a 10-minute walk from Edmonds Community College.
“They see a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not an oncoming freight train as it is for so many folks experiencing homelessness,” he said. “Over all it’s been a fabulous experience and I hope other churches in the area buy into this idea.”
Each 64-square-foot unit comes with a built-in bed, desk and shelf and will have heating, air conditioning and electricity. The units will also include a smoke detector, fire extinguisher and emergency escape hatch built into the wall. Shepherd’s Village also has a solar-powered shower and Wi-Fi so that the students can study. An on-site manager will also be available to assist residents.
The project, at a cost of $31,000 for six units, has been entirely funded by the Jean Kim Foundation.
Pallet CEO Amy King, whose husband Brady designed the units, said she hopes more cities will decide to use the same method to help with the issue of homelessness.
“I think it’s a more versatile approach and it’ll hopefully save them money in the long run, which allows them to help more people,” she said.
In addition to Pallet, King and her husband own a construction company called Squarepeg, with both businesses serving as a second-chance employment opportunity for people who have a criminal and/or addiction history.
“With both companies we have construction jobs and manufacturing jobs and we have a pipeline of people who come to us from the Department of Corrections, local shelters and case managers throughout the cities,” she said.
Jason Dunbar, services coordinator for the Jean Kim Foundation, said the idea of investing in the project is to ensure each student has a stable, personal space to work toward a better future.
“The mission here is get people off the street, help break the chains of poverty through education,” he said.
Residents of Shepherd’s Village will be vetted to ensure they are good fit for the new community. He said applicants cannot have warrants, cannot be registered sex offenders and will be subject to weekly random drug tests.
Dunbar said Shepherd’s Village is not just meant to provide someone struggling with homelessness a roof over their head, but to give them a sense of worth.
“I think when you’ve got value, your success is going to be better,” he said.
— Story and photos by Cody Sexton