By Zack Jimenez
A group of people have already gathered outside waiting for the doors to open as volunteers inside join hands to say their morning prayer. It’s 9:00 a.m., the doors open, and people quickly file into the front room of the new Hope House.
The Hope House, a local Catholic-affiliated charity, has been in operation since October of 2000. They provide food, clothing, hygiene products and financial assistance, at no cost, to community members in need, Hope House program manager Cheri Woolsey said.
In April of 2018, a $600,000 construction project was started to build a new Hope House. The project started with the demolition of the previous building that was more than 100 years old, and was completed in October 2018, Woolsey said.
The new facility is at the same location as the old building at 207 Kentucky St. next to the Church of the Assumption.
“We have two public restrooms and we have more room for everybody to move around,” she said. The new building also has an accessible front entrance.
“It’s been a blessing. They are able to help more [in the new building] compared to the old building because it was so small,” community member Maggie Miller said during her visit to the Hope House to get clothes.
The Hope House is a community outreach program operated by Catholic Community Services of Western Washington and also is supported by the Church of the Assumption, Woolsey said.
Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, the Church of the Assumption and private donations each covered a third of the cost the new Hope House, Woolsey said.
The Hope House receives around 20,000 visits annually and serves an estimated 5,300 unique individuals, she said.
“The bathrooms get a lot of use; they were definitely a need that was not being fulfilled [before],” Woolsey said. “If someone really had to use the bathroom, they would have to leave Hope House and go find somewhere else.”
The old building had a lot of issues including lack of accessibility, inadequate storage, heating issues and a rodent problem, she said.
In a previous interview in 2018, Woolsey described the problems with the old building as “an issue of human dignity,” due to its lack of accessibility.
The old building had one ramp at the back entrance and narrow hallways which were difficult for people in wheelchairs, she said.
Woolsey said she started pushing for a new building back in 2010. The original plan was to remodel the old facility, but it quickly became clear a new building was necessary, she said.
During the construction process, operations moved to a small shed in the alley behind the old building. It was dubbed the “Hope Shed” by volunteers, and services were cut back to food and hygiene products only due to the lack of space, she said.
“It’s a good feeling to know that you are contributing,” a Hope House volunteer Patricia Almarez said. “I am here to help [the community] and let them know that someone does think of them.”
There has been an increase in visitors and donations since the Hope House reopened, Woolsey said.
“We’ve actually had to close our doors to donations for a few days at a time because we got overloaded,” she said.
Woolsey said the Hope House has a financial assistance program that provides vouchers for food, gas and other needs. This program is solely funded by the Church of the Assumption.
Hope House volunteers are considering adding hours on Wednesdays in the coming months, the only weekday the organization is currently closed, to keep up with demand, she said.