Jubilee Womenâ€™s Center: A haven for homeless women
For those of us who have stable housing, we probably donâ€™t worry too much about the security of our possessions. But if youâ€™ve been homeless, having a safe place to store your belongings is a big deal. Thatâ€™s why Katy Childers, director of development for Jubilee Womenâ€™s Center, was excited to show me their new storage room with large, locked cages for each resident to store her belongings. The lockers are one small but important detail that demonstrates Jubileeâ€™s commitment to treating the women who reside there with dignity as they work toward once again living independently.
A home on the hill
On a drizzly July morning, I visited Jubilee Women’s Center, a Jolkona partner, in a quiet residential area of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Housed in a former convent, Jubilee was started 28 years ago by nuns who saw that there wasn’t a place for single homeless women. Jubilee continues to be one of the few organizations in Seattle that provides transitional housing and wrap-around services specifically for single women. Jubilee has space for 34 women â€” one-third of the approximately 100 spots in all programs for single women in Seattle, according to Katy. The immaculate facilities, extensively renovated in 2008 by a team of volunteers who donated everything from landscape design to efficient washing machines, feel like a real home â€” a safe, peaceful place to heal.
In order to regain their independence, most of the women at Jubilee have a lot of healing to do. Many are recovering from addiction or debilitating illnesses such as cancer. Many have also been victims of domestic violence, which is one of the primary causes of homelessness among women: an estimated 92 percent of homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives, and 63 percent have been victims of intimate partner violence as adults.
â€œOne thing Iâ€™ve seen is that when people come in thereâ€™s this initial relief that you donâ€™t have to think about where youâ€™re going to sleep tonight,â€ said Katy. â€œYour immediate needs are met. But then, three or four weeks into it, thereâ€™s this â€˜holy crapâ€™ â€” you have to deal with all these other issues that have caused that situation, and you have to start delving into some issues that can be really, really painful.â€
Breaking down the barriers to independence
To help the women rebuild their lives, Jubilee’s care managers meet with each woman at least weekly and help her create and follow through on a personalized plan that will allow her to live independently within two years. The womenâ€™s individual success plans focus on three goals: personal empowerment, permanent housing and economic well-being. In addition to connecting the women with resources in the community, Jubilee offers a variety of life-skills classes such as goal-setting, personal finance and job searching. Jubilee also has a computer lab and computer classes, allowing the women â€” many of whom have never used a computer before â€” to access benefits, improve their job skills and search for housing.
The average time a woman spends at Jubilee has been increasing due to the slow economy and longer wait times for subsidized housing, but most women are able to transition to permanent housing within two years. A number of former residents come back to volunteer and share their skills. One former resident, who graduated from FareStart’s culinary training program and went on to cooking school, now comes back to make meals with the women. Another former resident, a talented artist, visits to teach the women how to make cards, which they sell to local businesses. “I got a note woman whoâ€™d been here ten years ago,” said Katy. “Sheâ€™d made a donation and said, ‘this was a very difficult time in my life, but I am really thankful for it.’”
Watch this video to hear from some of the women who have benefited from Jubilee’s services.
How you can help
You can support a woman living at Jubilee to receive the one-on-one services she needs to transition to independence. Or you can make a gift to support Jubilee’s clothing boutique, which serves residents as well as 100 women from the community each month, allowing them to shop for consignment-quality clothes in a dignified environment. At a time when state and local funding for social services is being drastically cut, your support for Jubilee will provide crucial services for homeless women trying to rebuild their lives.