Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Night in the Life

April 24, 2014

It was a night I will not forget. This past Monday I decided to spend the night at our Emergency Shelter to experience a glimpse of the hardships that the women we serve experience. It was a very humbling experience for me. I want to share my experience with you in this newsletter.

I also want to remind you that Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG Campaign is coming up on May 6th; this generous campaign matches all contributions that are made to The Sophia Way. I hope you will take part in the campaign as well as get the word out among your friends, coworkers and family. At The Sophia Way, we have BIG dreams for the women we serve which can't be fulfilled without your support.
I look forward to your insights and suggestions on how we are doing. We always appreciate hearing from you.
   Thank you,
   Katherine Jordan
   Executive Director, The Sophia Way

A Night in the Life
My reflections on spending a night at our Emergency Shelter
Katherine Jordan, Executive Director, The Sophia Way

Monday night was very special - it was a fragile and humanizing experience for me. For almost six months I have served as the Executive Director (ED) of The Sophia Way. Within that time I have embraced the organization, the mission, the community and the staff, but always with my eyes directed to the people we serve. In the hopes of a greater connect, understanding and clarity of the realities of homelessness, I decided to spend the night, as a client, at The Sophia Way Emergency Shelter. I am hopeful my words can convey the experience, the emotion, and simply, the humanity of that night.

My choice is to always come from a place of transparency - I will point out, approach and dispel the elephant in the room for the benefit of a greater result. The elephant for me - I was simply afraid of staying the night at the Emergency Shelter. I couldn't quite put my finger on it for about a month, and then last week it became clear... I was frightened. As the ED, I find this ironic; I know the quality of the program and staff, the generosity of the meal donors, and I have spent many hours in the actual space that the shelter resides in as my son's Sea Scout group has met there for years. I knew my car would be right outside in the parking lot, my office within a stone's throw, and my home and family ten minutes away... and yet, I was scared. I humbly apologize to those who turn to the Emergency Shelter in need, who have no other choice, who are not familiar, who don't know what to expect, and who are lost in this moment in their lives. I apologize for resonating with my fear, with that voice in my head, for as long as I did, and for not joining you sooner.

My second apology goes out to the mothers, who out of necessity have to bring their children to the Emergency Shelter. As I was making the decision to stay the night, I considered bringing my 11-year old daughter with me - and then I changed my mind. I wanted to protect her from the experience - so I left her to sleep safely in her own bed, in her own home. As a mother, this is the piece that has haunted me. I had a choice, so many mothers do not have that choice. To the five mothers with their nine children who joined me at the shelter last night, I am humbled by you. To the mother who played "I'm gonna get you!" with her little one bringing fun and play to his evening even in light of their circumstance; to the mother who tried to calm her exhausted toddler through a temper-tantrum at 11pm; to the mother who held her sick and coughing baby through the night as it was struggling for breath - to all of you, I am humbled by your courage, strength and fortitude.

I stayed to myself through the night in the hopes guests might not recognize me, visiting only for a moment with staff who had expected my arrival; I wanted the experience to be as authentic as possible. Even though many guests have been at the shelter for weeks, for months, the majority remained in quiet solitude through the evening. I was grateful for the dinner of chicken and pasta salad, and by 10pm, I was very grateful for my mat and blankets. I woke many times through the night to the sounds around me, to the cacophony of snoring, and spent that time looking out the window at the lights of the Symetra and Concur buildings, knowing the folks who work there might never know this reality right outside their windows - 42 people sleeping on mats - women, children, families - with nowhere else to go.

I promised myself to stay as close to the real experience as possible - I would not go home the next morning to shower or get a bit more rest. I did fall short on this commitment; I found I wasn't willing to shower at the shelter, somehow that felt vulnerable in a way I still can't put in words. I decided a sponge bath would have to suffice for my work day, and found myself getting ready in the restroom of our office building next door. The shelter's restroom was so busy with 42 people getting up and ready within an hour's time - that's the excuse I am using to justify my desire for the privacy the Bradford restroom afforded me.

I am grateful for my experience; I will hold it close for a very long time. I am certain this experience will allow me to share the realities in an enlightened way I could not before. I am humbled by the people we serve, I am humbled by our staff who commit each day to making other's lives better, and I am humbled by my role to serve, to advocate for, to empower, and to lighten the hardship of those who carry a burden I didn't clearly understand until Monday night.

GiveBIG to The Sophia Way - Tuesday, May 6th!

Here is a unique chance to Grow Your Gift! Be part of the Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG campaign and see your gift grow as your contributions get matched from a 'stretch pool' of foundations.

Mark your calendars. Spread the word. Help us help those in need. We are counting on you!

The mission of The Sophia Way is to help end homelessness for adult women in King County by providing shelter, life skills training, social services and supportive permanent housing, offering a path from homelessness to stable independent living.

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The Sophia Way is supported by United Way of King County 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Together, we are changing the future

                                March 31, 2014

Together. Changing the Future.

I am extremely pleased to share very exciting news! The Sophia Way is taking two large steps forward in advancing our mission: 1) we are extending our Emergency Winter Shelter for women, children and families for more than 2 months until the end of May; and, 2) we are taking over the operations of the Angeline's Day Center at Sophia's Place from our longstanding partner, the YWCA. These events provide an incredible opportunity to extend our support for women experiencing homelessness in East King County. Please know that you, our community partners, share in this growth, success and opportunity. Read along for more details below.

I also want to thank you for making our Annual Benefit Dinner & Auction on March 15th at the Hilton Hotel a resounding success. It was a beautiful evening attended by more than 250 guests. We do not have final numbers at this time, but do know that more than $100,000 in net revenue was raised at the Auction! This would not have been possible without the support of all of you as contributors, volunteers and ambassadors of The Sophia Way. All funds raised will help to maximize our programs as we work to meet the needs of women experiencing homelessness.
Slowly, but steadily, we are changing the face of the future. I am so grateful to have you beside us!
   Thank you,
   Katherine Jordan
   Executive Director, The Sophia Way

Introducing the Day Center at Sophia's Place
The Sophia Way is taking over the operations of the Angeline's Day Center!

Since the inception of The Sophia Way, we have partnered with YWCA. They have provided the Angeline's Day Center in the same location as our overnight shelter. In 2012, Angeline's moved with us to our new location, Sophia's Place, at St. Luke's Lutheran Church. Beginning tomorrow, April 1st, we will be taking over the operations of the day center serving up to 40 women each day, Monday through Friday. The program includes two hot meals, shower and laundry facilities, a comfortable place to rest, computer and phone access, and additional resources which include nursing and dental services. With great thanks to the Sammamish Rotary Club and the St. Thomas Medina Episcopal Church, our guests will arrive to five brand new computers and printers on opening day. Having these state-of-the-art computing systems, with the latest of operating systems, is a great resource for Day Center and Night Shelter participants! Additionally, we plan to have tech-savvy volunteers on hand to help navigate the new look and feel!

The Sophia Way has always been painfully aware that our shelter hours are sometimes restrictive for the women we serve. It has always been our goal to move toward a 24 x 7 service model; taking over the Day Center operations moves us closer to that goal. This will not only allow us to serve more women, we will also be able to prevent more women from becoming homeless by providing the much needed services and resources to offset that possibility.

Volunteer Opportunity!
The Day Center provides a great volunteer opportunity to work directly with many of the women we serve. We will provide a required specialized training for all volunteers interested in helping at our Day Center. You can assist by sharing your skills - computer skills, gardening, knitting, arts and crafts and more. We are looking for volunteers who can commit at least once a week for 2-5 hours between the hours of 8:00 am and 1:00 pm, Monday through Friday. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity contact Nicole at

Emergency Winter Shelter Hours Extending Until May!

This is news that requires a drumroll! Since it's inception, each year The Sophia Way Emergency Winter Shelter has extended the duration of days open during the harshest months of the year. This year, through partnership with United Way, Holy Family Parish, and the Kirkland Interfaith Network, we are able to extend service longer than ever before - providing an additional ten weeks! This is a huge step forward with providing service to the community in a time of need. We all know that cold and wet weather conditions last well into May in the Pacific Northwest. We want women, children and families to have access to a warm place to stay and a hot meal to nourish them!

We have seen a distinct increase in the number of women and families accessing our services this year compared to last. Last week we reached a record high of 45 people in one night including 14 children. We have served 45 unduplicated children this year so far compared to only 17 last year. This is not a hopeful trend; we are honored to provide the resources needed during such difficult times.

Running through the end of May means we will almost see these children through their school year. A warm place to stay at night and hot meals provide that extra bit of stability that can have a profound effect on their education and future success. An emergency shelter is no replacement for a home, but it is an alternative for many who have no place else to go.

This is another big leap forward for The Sophia Way as we extend our services in East King County. We are very excited for the future we are building together in our communities!
The mission of The Sophia Way is to help end homelessness for adult women in King County by providing shelter, life skills training, social services and supportive permanent housing, offering a path from homelessness to stable independent living.

STAY CONNECTED:    Like us on Facebook    Follow us on Twitter

When Giving is Getting Back

Thursday February 27, 2014
We often think of volunteering as a way to give back to the community. And although that is certainly correct, what we often don't realize is that, when we volunteer, our lives are changed in ways we would not have imagined. Recent research has confirmed what many of us have know experientially for a long time -- that giving, money or time, gives us a deep sense of satisfaction, and is positively correlated with our psychological wellbeing. Many of the Sophia Way Companions have time and again shared with us, how their engagement with women in our program, has enhanced their lives. In this newsletter, we share a story from one of our Companions and how our Companion Program changed her life.
I am very sad to announce that our Client Services Director, Leslie Miller, will be leaving us in early March. However, I am thrilled for Leslie as she moves on to the City of Kirkland as the City's Human Services Coordinator. The experiences and opportunities of service and growth that Leslie is taking with her to her new role will, no doubt, help her excel in her sevice of the greater Eastside community. Our best wishes are with Leslie for all her future endeavors - she will be greatly missed!

We are two weeks away from our Annual Benefit Dinner and Auction. If you have not yet registered, take a few minutes to do so today. This is going to be an extraordinary event and I look forward to seeing you there.
Finally, I'm happy to share that we are extending the Eastside Emergency Winter Shelter for Women and Families with Children this season until the end of March. This is a great stride forward in our efforts to keep women and children warm, safe and sheltered. We will keep moving forward!
Thank you,
Katherine Jordan
Executive Director
When I Met Sally

This piece was written by Maya Subramanian, a volunteer Companion at The Sophia Way.
I heard about and joined the Companion Program at The Sophia Way in Jan 2013; it is simply the best thing that has happened to me! That might sound cliché but there is just no better way to say it.

For a couple of years before learning about The Sophia Way, I felt a need, a strong need, to work with women. I was looking for more meaning in my life, and to me that meant getting out and giving more in any way that I could. And I wanted to do it in a way that would sustain and increase my energy and passion for giving for the rest of my life.

I wasn't sure beyond that. I tried going to digital conferences looking to see how I felt about educating young women about embracing technology. I tried reading about women's rights to see if I could do something in that space. I tried knocking on many doors - work place reformation, mentoring career women or teenagers, and so on. Either my knocking was not effective, or my heart really wasn't in it, I am not sure, but I believed that if I kept trying, I would find what I was looking for.
Then I bumped into my friend, who is a staff member of The Sophia Way, and learned about the organization. I was instantly excited, and over lunch the following week he told me all about The Sophia Way.  I was very inspired by everything he shared. He connected me with Evelyn and Jan, coordinators of the Companion Program, who volunteer their services through WomanSpirit Center. A couple of months later, I join the Companion Program. It seemed to offer everything I was looking for and more. What do I mean by and more? I have mentors (like Jan and Evelyn) who train and support companions, the connection I now have with my fellow Companions, the once-a-month Companion meeting which is like a support group for volunteers, and the opportunity to have fun while giving. What I have learned about empathy, listening, and gratefulness has helped me become a better person at work and at home.

I am blessed to have a wonderful friend in Sally. I became her companion when she joined the Bellevue shelter. She is a smart, warm, intelligent person, and inspires me with her wisdom and kindness. She is a talented seamstress, and makes adorable doll clothes and accessories. She is a great cook. After she moved to her own place, Sally started making vegan meals especially for me, and brings them to our monthly companion dinners, so I don't have to eat just salad and fruit. I am used to salad and fruit - that is all I have to choose from, at many restaurants, as a paying customer! But to Sally, that just isn't acceptable! We have many common interests, and have had so many similar experiences in our lives, that we both believe we were always meant to be friends. She has taught me to look at the world and people in a more holistic way, to be more patient, and more balanced. In other words, I am growing up, and loving it. I am more real and more in touch with the real me, now more than ever in my life.

What I have learned is that for me, giving doesn't have to be serious or tedious, or it won't last long. For lifelong giving, givers need to be replenished. That is what I love about the program, it replenishes me. My fellow companions are the most gentle, wonderful people, and I want to be like them when I am older - actively volunteering, giving back, and caring. All this is what makes the Sophia Way program so beautiful thing, and I am glad I found my door. I am inside, and I see no Exit sign anywhere, and that is how it should be.
Extending Our Winter Shelter

We are very excited to share that our Eastside Emergency Winter Shelter for Women and Families with Children will be extended to the end of March this year - this is the longest this resource has ever remained open! Everyone living in the greater Seattle region knows that the official end of Winter does not bring the harsh wintry conditions to an end; bitter cold and wet conditions often persist well into the month of May.

We have a limited number of beds at Sophia's Place, our year-round shelter. The Emergency Winter Shelter allows us to serve many more women and children in need whom we otherwise are not able to due to our limited resources. This is not just a lifeline for those out in the streets, it also often serves as a bridge for many women to come to our permenant shelter or to get other services.

Our ability to extend the Emergency Winter Shelter this year was, in part, made possible by a generous donation from Holy Family Catholic Church in Kirkland. We are grateful for this partnership and the extended opportunity to serve!
In This Issue
When I Met Sally
Extending Our Winter Shelter
The Sophia Way is Losing a Family Member

The Sophia Way is Losing a Family Member

Leslie Miller was hired as a part-time shelter staff person when Sophia Way first started. She would work evening weekends, and so from the beginning was the "face of Sophia Way" to the many neighborhood churches that hosted the shelter on the nights we couldn't be at Bellevue First Congregational. She was also a steady presence in the lives of our very first clients, helping them adjust to the new surroundings.

It quickly became apparent that Leslie was a great talent for Sophia Way. She took her responsibility very seriously, not just to do the job assigned, but to figure out how we could deliver services better. She became an advocate for the clients and the agency. She sought out training opportunities, taking on more responsibility and becoming expert in anything she thought would benefit the program. When Sophia Way had the opportunity to partner with the Eastside cities to provide a winter shelter, Leslie took the lead. When our funding contracts required special reporting, Leslie took the lead. When we had opportunities to become engaged with the broader social services community, Leslie took the lead. When we moved from the 10-mat shelter to the new 21-cubicle space, Leslie oversaw every detail in making the daily life of our clients the best that it could be. When she was named Client Services Director of Sophia Way, it was a recognition of how she touched the lives of all our clients, how she shaped their experience of Sophia Way and how she led by example as she kept the focus on the women we serve.

It is with deep gratitude and respect that we now say goodbye to Leslie, as she takes on the new challenge and opportunity of working for the City of Kirkland. We look forward to all the wonderful work she will do and all the new lives she will touch in this exciting endeavor.

The Sophia Way is supported by United Way of King County.