Lauren Thomas (Hopelink), Janet Pope (Compass Housing Alliance), Pastor Kelly Dahlman-Oeth (Ronald UMC), Councilmember Rod Dembowski (King County Council), and Mayor Chris Roberts cut a banner “ribbon” during the grand opening of Ronald Commons in Shoreline, Wash. For more photos, visit bit.ly
By Jesse N. Love
On January 24, 2015 King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski along with members of his staff and a US military veteran participated in One Night Count. They strolled through the Aurora Corridor in Shoreline, Wash. and encountered eight individuals sheltered in their automobiles. According to Dembowski, 220 children in the Shoreline school district are “homeless or unstably housed” and sheltered veterans amounted to 2,200 with a “growing net” of 60 every month.
Dembowski served as one of several speakers welcoming everyone to the grand opening of Ronald Commons, a new living community established on the grounds of Ronald United Methodist Church in Shoreline. Around 250 people, including the members of Ronald UMC, listened to speakers, reflected on the journey, and took a tour of the new digs.
Ronald Commons features 60 living units and welcomes low-income families, veterans, disabled persons, and young children. Along with living spaces, the Commons has many features to help stabilize and empower families out of poverty; it has a food bank that has the look, feel and functionality of an everyday grocery store. It also has rooms for adult educational programming including financial counseling and a small playground for children.
Janet Pope, CEO of Compass Housing Alliance, shares, “…14 months ago, this was an underutilized piece of property. Today, we embrace hope.” Ronald Commons was developed primarily through a three-way partnership between Ronald UMC and social service networks Compass and Hopelink. “Staff will strategize each individual to overcome hardship and trauma. (We are) pulling together talent and resources for the most vulnerable,” shares Pope.
During the grand opening, the Rev. Kelly Dahlman-Oeth recognized the work of his predecessor, the Rev. Paula McCutcheon who was at the forefront with her then congregation in developing this movement for affordable housing on the grounds of the Church over the last 5 years. McCutcheon could not make it to the ceremony because of the changing event date due to a recent snowstorm and a scheduled family appointment.
Dahlman-Oeth has described “Phase 2” as a time for “building relationships and community”. During his previous appointment at Lake Washington UMC, he and his congregation stood with the homeless by having its church doors open 24/7 to Camp Unity Eastside and a safe parking program for those living inside their vehicles. Dahlman-Oeth will continue his work at Ronald UMC living the vision that “all should be fed, all should be housed, and all should be welcomed.” Currently, Ronald UMC hosts weekly dinners for the community with Dale Turner YMCA and other churches in the Shoreline community.
“With courage, compassion and true grit, Ronald UMC gave itself away for the love of Christ’s greater community,” shares the Rev. Rich Lang, Seattle District Superintendent of The PNW Conference. “I look forward to seeing how the church will connect relationally with its new neighbors. It is a model that I hope several other churches will duplicate.”
As rooms fill and community grows in this place, the partnership of Compass Housing Alliance, Hopelink, and Ronald United Methodist Church will continue to combat the challenges of homelessness through affordable housing, case management, access to employment resources, and feeding the bodies & spirits of those in the city of Shoreline.
Special thanks to the Revs. Kelly Dahlman-Oeth, Paula McCutcheon, and Rich Lang. Also special thanks to Darrell Bulmer, Paul Purcell, Jan Laskey, Deb Burkhart, Mayor Chris Roberts, and Josephine Wong
Jesse N. Love serves as the graphic designer & print manager for the PNWUMC.