In South King County, the cost of rent has grown upwards of around 12 percent in some areas, according to South King County and Homelessness partnership. This is causing more and more people to seek help to keep up with rising costs.
Each year, 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, according to kingcounty.gov.
Vine Maple Place is doing everything it can to change these statistics, including by opening a new resource center on Dec. 8.
According to Vine Maple Place’s Executive Director Michelle Frets, Vine Maple, the nonprofit is community-based and serves moms and dads who are homeless or almost homeless. Of those parents coming in with their kids, she said about 70 percent of them are coming from domestic violent situations.
“All of our families have a real crisis happening. We serve kids and the families holistically. Our main goal is to work on the generational aspect of homelessness, the families who are almost homeless, stopping that eviction, stopping what’s happening in terms of the crisis with them and helping them to do that so they stay in their house, and families who are homeless we help them get housing. That’s just the first step,” Frets said.
She said safety is Vine Maple’s first goal, to make sure the families are safe and have a secure place to stay until they are able to get into an apartment of their own.
According to the Vine Maple Place website and Frets, they partner with more than 20 local landlords in Maple Valley, Covington, Black Diamond, Kent, Auburn and Renton, to address housing needs.
While the new center that just opened is a resource center and not a shelter, Frets said they do offer temporary housing.
“We do have 14 emergency shelter units that are temporary housing. We have 99 families in the program right now and all except for 21 are living off-site in apartments, all throughout South King County,” she explained.
She said the main goal is to keep families off-site because they found when families are in their own place they are more motivated to keep moving forward and stay in their place.
Once Vine Maple is able to find families suitable living situations, they offer furniture, kitchen supplies, bathroom supplies and whatever else they might need including deposits on an apartment.
All of this is through donations, Frets said.
“Everything you see here is 100 percent donated. It’s all private funding. It comes from private donations from foundations. So 20 percent of our income is through private grants. We take no government funding and we’ve been able to really development quickly and learn from what everybody’s doing because we’re very connected to King County,” she explained.
To make sure parents are able to make it to their job or get back to Vine Maple for training, Frets said they also offer gas cards and ORCA cards to ensure transportation.
Once safety and housing are addressed, Frets said the next step is long-term stability.
“Stability is characterized by emotional safety. So we have our on-site counseling for the moms and the kids or the families together. So we’re really focusing on the families healing together. The older the children are, the more angry some of the kids are and so it takes a little more time with them. We address the emotional and the physical and financial needs of the family to kind of give them a support network as their going back to or becoming stable,” she explained.
Counselors on-site at Vine Maple are from an organization called Nexus Youth and Families, which is a social services organization that offers therapy and counseling, according to the Nexus website.
Moving on from stability comes skill building.
Frets said there are quite a few classes parents are able to take in order to get their lives back on track.
For instance, Vine Maple offers hands-on group workshops that focus on budget building.
According to the Vine Maple website, parents are able to learn to establish bank accounts, reduce debt, budget and improve their credit score.
A local single mom, Jonisha Cloy, said she was struggling to keep up with bills and rent. With the help of Vine Maple Place, she said her life has changed in the best way possible.
“Instead of like a lot of other agencies, who just hand you money and say ‘here’s the one-time help,’ they actually train you to start financially budgeting. They make you work toward it. They don’t just hand you a check. They send you through classes and actually explain things to you,” Cloy said.
Another class parents are able to take are parenting classes. The website said this is where parents learn about relationship boundaries to help establish a nurturing home for their children.
“They grow skills, they start to calm down, get out of their crisis. It takes about six weeks and then we see them starting to develop towards long-term development,” Frets aid.
While all of these classes and training sessions are great, Frets said she thinks the child and youth program is what stands out the most.
“We have a full children’s area. Equally what we’re doing with the parents is what we’re doing with the kids. We researched for two years and really looked at — because we had a tsunami of kids. For every parent we had more than two kids — so we were watching what was happening, parents are often really distressed because of what the kids have had to go through. We have a mentoring program, a tutoring program, after school programs, kids zone, we have life skills classes, taught by Nexus Youth and Families Services,” she explained.
Cloy said there are not too many agencies that offer child care for parents and said Vine Maple has been great for her kids.
“They provide not just a daycare center for your kids to sit in, they actually have activities, structure for the kids,” Cloy said.
Frets said this is not babysitting, it’s working with children to help them learn coping skills and self-regulation.
She said when a lot of kids come into Vine Maple, they are overwhelmed and overstimulated, but once they start to calm down, counselors are able to help them learn how to connect with the cognitive part of their brain because usually when kids come in, they are in “fight or flight” mode with no other sense of connecting.
According to Frets, each month there are at least 30 new families coming in, and with them, about 70 kids.
She said about 70 percent of them are engaged with the programs at Vine Maple, which means there need to be a lot of volunteers.
Without volunteers, Frets said they could not do the work they do. She said there are about 60 volunteers that come in each week to help out with children or parents, wherever they are needed.
When a family is ready to leave Vine Maple Place there’s a good chance they’ll stay on track. Frets said 91 percent of families are still housed and doing well after one year on their own. She said if they hit a bump in the road and need help again, they are always welcome to come back and ask for help.
“The need in our community is huge. We’re receiving 90 phone calls a month on average and it’s actually been escalating a little bit. We’re able to bring 30 families in. We want to see that service gap reduced. We want to be able to help, we want to be able to ensure no kids are sleeping outside or sleeping in dangerous place. Our goal is to stop homelessness for every family that calls here,” she said. “That we’re able to serve them with the services they need in that emergency because it’s not OK that a child and their family are going to be sleeping somewhere dangerous tonight.”
Vine Maple also offers “Vision of Hope.”
According to the website, Vision of Hope is a casual and informative presentation to learn more about the Vine Maple Place vision and how to break the cycle of family homelessness.
“It’s just beyond amazing. It’s great, like, not even for just me, but just for them touching multiple families and I know if they could help the world they would. I pray that they get to that point to where they are nationwide because they’re amazing. They’re a family to us,” Cloy said with tears in her eyes.
To get more information on Vine Maple Place and how you to help, call 425-432-2119 ext. 111.