Marysville homeless families will soon have a new emergency shelter open to them with Interfaith Family Shelter’s Miracle House location.
The nonprofit organization largely operates in Everett but will expand into Marysville with a location in partnership with the Marysville United Methodist Church.
The Miracle House location is scheduled to be opened sometime this January.
It will hold two families and up to eight people at a time.
“The biggest reason we want to do it is because currently in Snohomish County we have about half as many rooms available for families in shelters as we have families that are unhoused,” said Jim Dean, executive director of the Interfaith Family Shelter.
“There is just not enough, and this is a way to provide shelter that seems reasonable to us cost-wise,” he said.
The need is large not just in the county, but locally as well.
“There’s not a whole lot of options for families in Marysville facing homelessness,” said Mary Grace Antony, development director for Interfaith Family Shelter.
She said Marysville families would have priority for the housing spots, although if there are no Marysville families waiting then the spots will be given to others in need.
Interfaith Family Shelter specializes in working with entire families.
“In Marysville, there’s only one other place [Maud’s House] that deals with families,” said Dean. Many of the other shelters don’t take men and/or don’t take teenage boys once they reach a certain age.
“We have lots of families that choose not to break up, rather than live in a shelter,” said Dean.
“I’ve seen cases where we brought families back together where the son had been at Cocoon House, father had been at the mission, and mom and child had been at one of the other shelters in the area,” he said.
Antony noted that they serve a wide variety of families.
“The definition of ‘family’ is flexible, as long as there is a legal relationship between an adult and a child,” she said.
Like many other shelter programs, Interfaith Family Shelter provides support for kids.
“We try to help them stay on top of their school work and their homework so we have a child advocate at our shelter and she has a whole team of volunteers,” said Anthony. “And when they’re on break we have activities."
Miracle House will be an emergency shelter like Interfaith Family Shelter’s main shelter in Everett.
That means families are meant to spend only 90 days at the shelter.
“We’re moving clients faster than we ever have before,” said Dean, who added the average time in one of their shelters in 68 days.
“Eighty percent of them are moving into new housing,” he said. “Some move out and go back into homelessness. Of those 20 percent I would say that every one of them has some sort of untreated mental illness that they just won’t get help for or active substance abuse that they would not stop."
The organization provides guidance and support to get families into housing they can live in, including financial support with first and last months rent and a rental deposit.
“We provide them some subsidy for rent that declines over that year, until they get to the end of the year where they’re paying for it all themselves,” said Dean. Ninety-four percent of those people are staying housed, he said.
The shelter is meant to a be low-barrier housing.
“People are not turned away for substance abuse or addiction and we and try to meet people where they are at and withhold judgement,” said Antony.
Felonies and current drug use are not automatic strikes that will prohibit a family from entering the shelter.
“We do screen for crimes against children and crimes against people. Someone with fresh assault charges or who has sex offender status, we do screen those out. When you have kids in the process, you have to protect the kids in the program,” said Dean.
Drug use at the shelter is still prohibited.
“You can’t use any of that stuff at the shelter and you can’t be at a place where your behavior is inappropriate for a communal living situation,” said Dean.
Families who need help can call the shelter intake line at 425-200-4121, although Dean recommends calling 211 before contacting them directly.
“What we always push people to do is to try 211 first. Call 211, get a housing navigator and get into the system, because we’re going to send you there immediately after anyway,” said Dean.
Unfortunately the need is great so there is often a backlog of people who need help.
“In November we had almost 100 individual calls and we only had five spots open,” said Dean.
The Interfaith Family Shelter has been open since 1984, when a number of Everett Christian groups got together to provide a night shelter for families.
At the time it was all volunteer but it has grown over the years into an organization with paid staff and a full-time Everett shelter.
Last year, 68 families went through their family shelter in Everett, including 147 children.
The organization also runs a ‘Cars to Housing’ program that began last summer and provides a safe parking lot for families living in their vehicles.
The program also provides support for those families and connects them with services and staff to help them secure permanent housing.
The Miracle House shelter will be the organization's first extension into Marysville.
“I’m excited,” said Dean.
They are one of the first shelters to try to bring a “scattered-site” model to the county, which means providing a shelter through family houses instead of large complexes.
“It has less impact on the community. To put a shelter with 10 or more families can have a pretty big impact with traffic,” said Dean.
He also looks forward to working with the Marysville United Methodist Church.
“The partnership is really solid with the church,” he said. The church already hosts local clothing bank Kloz 4 Kidz and makes homeless support a part of their community work. “They see it as part of their mission to help the homeless,” said Dean.