Homeless Families Find Care at Starbucks-Sponsored Event

Jennifer Pritchard watched her 10-year-old granddaughter mimic onscreen dance moves in the center of Seattle’s CenturyLink Events Center and smiled a little wearily. That girl is her take-it-as-it-comes granddaughter, Pritchard said. Things are harder for her 15-year-old half-sister.

Pritchard was one of almost 1,000 homeless people who braved the cold and rain today (March 9) to attend the United Way of King County’s Community Resource Exchange (CRE). This was the second year in a row the Connecticut native came to the CRE, which connects essential services to people who are experiencing homelessness. For Pritchard, things like a hot meal and entertainment for her granddaughter are appreciated, but the kindness and care shown by United Way staff and volunteers is what she values most.

“They take their time with you, which you miss from other people,” she said. “That’s what I enjoy.”

Pritchard and her grandchildren, as well as her sister, lost their apartment 14 months ago when they fell behind on their rent. Since then, thanks to Mary’s Place, the region’s largest family emergency shelter provider, they’ve had a place to stay from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., as well as access to a family center that provides connections to housing, employment and childcare services.

“It’s really difficult for kids,” Pritchard said. “I want to talk to them, but these are adult issues, and they’re family issues. So the girls know, yes, we’re going to find our own place. How soon, we don’t know. They’re hanging in there.”

Briana Turk, her 2-year-old daughter, Arianna, and her partner, Palmer Fields, have also found housing at Mary’s Place. Prior to that, they scrambled to find shelter, moving frequently. Fields spent four months living in a tent near Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, and Turk and her daughter joined him at times.

“You have to sit back and think about it,” Fields said. “Without Mary’s Place, where would I be? I think about that every day.”

Angel Gardner, who read a poem inspired her experience with homelessness (she was selected as Seattle’s Youth Poet Laureate in 2016), attended last year’s CRE when she was three months pregnant. The 20-year-old credits the contacts she made there with helping her find stability in her life. By the time her now-5-month-old son Maverick was born, she had found a place of her own and began to experience acclaim as a writer.

“I tell everybody about the Community Resource fair,” she said. “I didn’t know a lot about homelessness until I was homeless. Now I try to stay involved.”

An ongoing commitment to address the crisis

Starbucks, the title sponsor of CRE, is committed to addressing the crisis of youth and family homelessness in King County. Last month, Starbucks sponsored the first in a series of State of Homelessness forums in Seattle, in partnership with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Seattle Association, Visit Seattle and the Alliance for Pioneer Square. Starbucks also continues to work with organizations like Mary’s Place and to support the No Child Sleeps Outside campaign. About 150 volunteers from Starbucks participated in the CRE, the largest group there.

“Don’t let today be the only day,” John Kelly, Starbucks senior vice president, Global Responsibility, Community & Public Policy, told volunteers. “Please let your voice be known. This is the best day in Seattle. It’s all of you coming together in common cause.”

United Way board member Dan Brettler, said the CRE is dedicated to longtime United Way director of ending homelessness, Vince Matulionis, who died last September.

“He had the ability to give hope and respect to people struggling with the bitter reality of living outside or in their car.”

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