Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission helps open BelRed Family Resource Center

As homelessness has become more visible in Redmond and throughout the Eastside, more organizations and agencies have been doing what they can to address the issue.

As homelessness has become more visible in Redmond and throughout the Eastside, more organizations and agencies have been doing what they can to address the issue.

For their part, three Eastside churches have teamed up with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM) to open the BelRed Family Resource Center (BRFRC) in Redmond.

The center is a partnership among UGM, Creekside Covenant Church and Evangelical Chinese Church of Seattle (ECC) in Redmond and Westminster Chapel in Bellevue. It is located at Creekside (2315 173rd Ave. N.E.) and serves homeless women with children.

Services at the center include daytime meals, showers, hygiene items, clothing, housing referrals, job search support, computer access, mail service, children’s activities and case management. The center is also working on creating a clothing closet for women and children, with the hope of opening the closet by Aug. 10. BRFRC is currently accepting donations of new or lightly worn clothes for the closet. For more information, call (206) 491-0651.

Jen Browning, emergency shelter administrator for UGM, said the day center gives women and their children “a place to just be for however long they need it to be.” Guests don’t need to worry about overstaying their welcome or having to purchase something to eat or drink to justify staying, as they would at a cafe.

Browning said once school begins, they would like to add tutoring and homework help for kids and teens to their offered services, as well.

The idea behind their day center, she said, is to have multiple services in one location so guests are not running around town to meet with providers.

BRFRC opened on May 31 and Browning said their main focus since then has been working to build relationships with local service providers. She said they have reached out to Hopelink, various organizations at the Together Center in downtown Redmond and Friends of Youth. BRFRC has also reached out to Lake Washington School District and Bellevue School District.

Currently, the center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with plans to expand hours when school starts. Browning said this will be especially important once the weather gets colder.

Dawn Zern, church engagement partnership specialist for UGM, said their long-term goal for the center is to open a shelter for women and their children next door to the church.

Organizers are currently going through the permitting process with the City of Redmond to convert the house. They said the shelter should open sometime next year.

Browning said they are looking to house 10-15 families, depending on the size of the families and the renovation and remodeling work they will be able to do to convert it to a shelter.

The house center organizers plan to turn into a shelter is owned by ECC.

Elton Lee, an elder at the church, said they got involved in working with the homeless population a couple years back when the city approached them about hosting an emergency family shelter during the winter months. He said they looked into it and learned that their church did have the resources and manpower to help. And as it is the church’s mission to be a blessing to others, Lee said they came on board.

Lee said ECC then contacted UGM, Creekside and Westminster because they knew they had similar desires to help. It took a few years to get the day center up and running.

“It doesn’t move fast,” Lee said.

In addition to providing the house for a potential shelter, Lee said many members of their church — which has a location in Seattle as well as in Redmond — volunteer to help at the day center, provide toiletries for guests and cook meals for them.

“We’re really excited to finally open our doors and offer services,” Lee said. “We really want to provide hope for (day center guests).”

ECC used to own the building where Creekside is located, which is how the two churches ended up partnering for the day center project.

John Coster, leadership team chair for Creekside, said it was a natural fit for them to host the day center when ECC approached them with the idea.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to serve the community in a way we had hoped,” he said, “especially since the building already has all of the amenities that are necessary to accommodate these services.”

Coster added that their church members were very excited and supportive as the idea for BRFRC began to develop and worked to prepare the space for their guests.

“From day one, we wanted to find ways to use this space to bless the community,” he said. “The Bible teaches us to love and care for the marginalized and disenfranchised. If we take this seriously, then we can’t ignore the plight of homeless people around us. In fact, we are compelled to act in practical ways. We believe that God has provided us with this facility so we can share His love to those who need physical and spiritual restoration and renewal.”

Nancy Erisman, a Community Impact Team volunteer for Westminster, said their church members have been very receptive to the day center project, as well.

She said Westminster — which supports the project through funding and volunteers and promoting the project to their networks — has hosted a men’s shelter for a month each year through Congregations for the Homeless. So when UGM approached Westminster about working with them and the other two churches on the BRFRC project, they thought it was a great complement to their existing efforts.

“We believe that Christ cared for the poor and since our church started, we’ve sent missionaries out to other parts of the globe,” Erisman said. “But given that our church is situated in the middle of a diverse neighborhood, we wanted to also look after our own community. Our vision is to walk alongside people in transition, not only by investing financially but through rich investment in individuals’ lives.”

She added that she has been impressed by ECC and Creekside as the churches are using their own properties for the day center.

“It’s been a delight to come alongside them and support in any way we can,” Erisman said.

While homelessness is not new to the Eastside, Zern said UGM doing work on this side of the lake is new.

“(Homelessness is) an Eastside problem and we want to be here,” she said.