Lynelle Caudillo shares the story of a woman who landed a professional-grade job on the Plateau and hoped to live in Enumclaw. The search proved fruitless for the single mother of two and, as a result, she now makes the commute to and from Federal Way.
Caudillo, a pastor at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Enumclaw, tells the tale to attach a real-life situation to a pressing, societal problem. Simply, affordable housing is in short supply in Enumclaw.
The city certainly isn’t unique when it comes to limited supply and greater demand. A lack of affordable housing seemingly is being discussed everywhere these days and it’s a cause being tackled throughout the Puget Sound region. Advocates are found in government circles and among those in the realm of social services.
But there isn’t a lot being done in Enumclaw, Caudillo found. So, she began a discussion with members of the Calvary congregation “who really feel the desperation of people who are homeless,” she said.
The congregation assists with a winter shelter program and participates in the Full Bellies program, but it was agreed more needs to be done. “It just felt like a drop in the proverbial bucket,” Caudillo said.
From those talks, a simple first step was devised.
A “community conversation” on affordable housing – which can include the more severe situation of homelessness – has been planned. The entire community is invited to come together from 8:30 to noon on Saturday, Oct. 26, to at least give a growing problem a public voice.
Anyone who cares about the affordable housing issue is welcome to attend, Caudillo said. The gathering will be at Calvary Presbyterian, 1725 Porter St. in Enumclaw.
Included in the day will be presentations by two groups that have contributed in a positive way, Caudillo said. Those are Vine Maple Place, a Maple Valley operation that deals largely with single parents, and the White River Housing Association, which is responsible for 20 cottages in Buckley that are home to senior citizens.
Additionally, Caudillo has invited King County Councilman Reagan Dunn and members of the Enumclaw City Council, while also spreading the word through organizations like Plateau Outreach Ministries, the Plateau Ministerial Association and the Chamber of Commerce.
All ideas will be welcomed on the 26th, the pastor said, while noting that the meeting is viewed as just a first step on what could be a long journey. There’s no expectation that the gathering will generate a concrete answer to a growing problem that cuts a swath through the entire community.
“There’s not one answer because it’s very complex,” Caudillo said. While some struggle for economic reasons, she said, others are battling tougher issues like mental illness or addiction.
In Enumclaw, she said, the school district told her there were 200 students last year who were unable to provide a permanent address. Green River College, she added, has detailed how some of its students are struggling to maintain adequate housing. And at a senior-living facility in Enumclaw, residents shared concerns that have arisen in their own families.
The twin troubles of affordable housing and homelessness are readily apparent to anyone spending time around Enumclaw. Those in need are visible throughout town, the police routinely are called to deal with people often reported as “suspicious” and homeless camps are not uncommon in the more-sheltered areas.
“Enumclaw doesn’t even have a daytime shelter” where people can escape the coming cold weather, Caudillo said. She hopes a public conversation on the morning of Oct. 26 will kick-start and effort to provide some positive answers to tough questions.