photo by Steve Shay
Burien based Hospitality House transitional shelter helps homeless women of South KC find jobs & homes of their own through a 90-day training program. Pictured, wearing glasses, Nancy Pappas, Aviation High School career program developer and volunteer gives residents tips on coming across professionally in a job interview. Hospitality House is seeking donations due to State & Federal budget constraints.

Hospitality House transitional shelter for homeless women of South KC seeks donations

Hospitality House does what no other house, or homeless shelter, is doing in South King County. Nine women share a cozy room of bunk beds (and one single) and two adjoining bathrooms at Lake Burien Presbyterian Church, and train to be effective in job interviews and other skills to find work, and a home, by the time their 90-day stay concludes.

The 12 year-old program is affiliated with a dozen area churches that provide dinners and volunteers. Hospitality House is a 501c3 non-profit and receives funding from individuals, business, and civic groups, also, State and Federal programs, which are experiencing cutbacks. As a result it is in the hole $10,000 with a $200,000 annual budget and asks for the community's help. Staff stays overnight. Breakfast and lunch, and some bus tickets are provided, and the occasional fine and application fee is paid.

There is a large stable of volunteers, and four paid staff, including Executive Director, Natalie Reber, who manages grants and fundraising.

"The pastor of this church who served 12 years ago, Charles Kothe, noticed a growing need for homeless women, particularly in this community," Reber said.
"He brought together colleagues from the faith community and folks from our (Burien) City Council and got this effort up and running. When we started we were only open at night and functioned as purely an emergency shelter. The women came in at 6:00 p.m. We brought in a meal. They spent the night and left at 6:00 a.m. Slowly we've been able to open our services up during the day. That's really when we see the higher outcomes, meaning the residents are more successful in finding permanent, stable housing when they leave our program because they have that time during the day to focus on finding housing, a job, increase their life skills, and are not out all day long every day, wondering what to do while waiting for the shelter to reopen."

The program's success rate is 70-percent, the percentage of residents who find work (plus some disabled who acquire Social Security) and their own shelter following the three-month program. She said this is "amazingly high" as it is just nine percent for those using emergency shelters that only open at night, and lack these programs and staff support.

"We see the longer term effects of domestic violence," she said. "We are not a safe house and do not shelter women (immediately) fleeing a domestic violence situation. But two or three years down the road, after she is no longer in immediate danger from her abuser, she might be a good fit here."

Nancy Pappa, Aviation High School's Career & Readiness Program Developer, volunteered two nights teaching residents how to put their best foot forward during a job interview.

"When they ask you in an interview what are your weaknesses, they are not really asking you what you do badly," said Pappas. "It's just a measurement of your self-value. They are really asking, 'Do you understand your weaknesses and do you have a plan, and are you willing to improve?'"

How you appear, including body language, is as important as the answers you provide at the interview, she said. "What are you doing when you aren't talking? Are you playing with your hair, tapping fingers? A lot of this is posture. I don't lean back on my chair. When you have a straight spine you can sit up and sound more professional. Try to have eye contact. If it's a panel interview, 'go around' and make eye contact with everyone in the room, and end up on the person who asked you the question. Play the room a little. Remember, you're interviewing them as well."

One resident, Kathy, appeared extremely alert and motivated, and shared this with the Highline Times. "I have no money, no home, no car. This is the first time I have ever been in this situation. I was with a gentleman. I was giving him money to pay our rent, which he didn't do. We got evicted. I have adult children. They know I am here, but they're on an edge of a situation (economically) also. They live with other roommates. I'm too proud to ask to stay with them and their roommates. I just found a job in retail. I start tomorrow. I like to work with people, and just the constant moving. It's hard for me to be still."

Another resident, Amelia, just 27, said she experiences joint pain and nausea which results in her chronic homelessness. "I like it here. The emergency shelters downtown are great, but a place like this is more consistent and steady. I know who's around me. The staff is here supporting me. I can leave my things here during the day. I'm working towards getting my health figured out, getting on track reapplying for Social Security, also getting my yoga instruction certification within the year. I have siblings. I don't know where they are. Not even sure if my mom is still alive. I have survived through great mentors."

In an exit survey, a resident wrote, "Before coming to Hospitality House I needed nurturing. I was cared for, fed, educated and clothed. I pray to God that you never stop doing what you're doing. You have helped a lot of people. I know because you have helped me. You may never know how much. Thank you."

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