A visitor to Cocoon House’s U-Turn drop-in center on Broadway in Everett eats a warm meal on Tuesday, Dec. 13. The nonprofit that provides shelter and other services to at-risk youth is planning a major expansion and is slated to move into a new building on Colby Avenue by mid-2018. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

A visitor to Cocoon House’s U-Turn drop-in center on Broadway in Everett eats a warm meal on Tuesday, Dec. 13. The nonprofit that provides shelter and other services to at-risk youth is planning a major expansion and is slated to move into a new building on Colby Avenue by mid-2018. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Cocoon House moves forward with major expansion

EVERETT — Cocoon House, the nonprofit that provides shelter and other services for homeless youth, is taking several big steps toward helping more kids and to expand its service offerings.

Its plans to build and move into a larger facility in 2018 were set back this month, however, when it didn’t receive an expected grant from the state Housing Trust Fund.

The Housing Trust Fund, part of the state Department of Commerce, funded 20 out of 37 projects statewide. None of those funded were specifically dedicated to serving homeless youth populations.

“If we’re not prioritizing youth support, we’re just feeding the adult systems,” said Cocoon House CEO Cassie Franklin, who said she didn’t know why youth providers weren’t awarded this year.

“You’re not seeing Cocoon House’s counterpart in King County get money, you’re seeing an adult provider get money,” she said.

Cocoon House had applied for up to $2.75 million from the fund.

The Department of Commerce received 37 applications for more than $56 million, but was only able to fund 20 projects for $33.5 million, spokeswoman Corina Grigoras wrote in an email.

“Cocoon House has applied for funding for their Colby Avenue Youth Center, but the project was not as competitive and ready to move forward as the other projects, so unfortunately we were not able to fund it this year,” Grigoras said.

The two organizations that received Housing Trust money in Snohomish County were Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington, which plans to build Everett’s Safe Streets Supportive Housing project and received $2.45 million, and Housing Hope, which is building out its HopeWorks Station project on Broadway, and received $1.75 million.

Both of those housing projects primarily are focused on serving homeless adults, with Everett’s project setting aside 10 out of the 70 planned units for young adults age 18-24, and HopeWorks reserving 15 out of 76 planned units for young adults, Grigoras said.

Cocoon House is expected to provide some case management services to the city’s project when it opens, but not HopeWorks Station, Franklin said.

For Cocoon House, however, the loss of the expected funding put a dent in the nonprofit’s fundraising plans, and it could delay the start of construction.

Earlier this year the organization began the quiet phase of a $15 million capital program to build a facility that will nearly double its existing capacity. That’s now been pared back to $12 million, about one-third of which has been raised so far, Franklin said.

She added that the second, public phase of the capital campaign is still expected to launch in early 2017.

At about the same time as Cocoon House started raising money, it put in an option to buy the old Spirit of Grace United Methodist Church at 3530 Colby Avenue.

That acquisition is still on track to close March 31, 2018, Franklin said. The church congregation now meets at Everett Community College.

Cocoon House also is one of the organizations receiving support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which alongside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Raikes Foundation has committed nearly $2 million to ending youth homelessness in Washington.

Part of the Allen Foundation’s support is a public service announcement that was scheduled to be televised during the Seahawks-Cardinals game Dec. 24. The foundation also is matching all donations made during the month of December.

While the Housing Trust Fund grant didn’t come through, Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget proposal for the next biennium includes $635,000 in funding for Cocoon House from the Building Communities Fund and $438,000 from the Youth Recreational Facilities Fund.

Even while paring back Cocoon House’s campaign goal, Franklin still anticipates it will have enough to build the new facility.

The new Cocoon House will be housed in a three-story building that will include offices and living space for the youth in the program.

It will have private rooms with showers and kitchen facilities for about 40 people, nearly doubling Cocoon House’s capacity for long-term housing.

The second floor will be dedicated to kids 15-17 years of age, while the top floor will house young adults ages 18-24, who are legally adults but may not have the life skills or emotional maturity to be put in the same housing facility as someone who has spent years on the streets.

Young adults are not currently served by Cocoon House. People who age out of Cocoon House at 18 and still need support get connected with other social services.

Legally, they are adults, but many lack the life skills and emotional maturity of adulthood, and need specialized support. New Ground Everett, operated by Friends of Youth, is the only housing facility exclusively for young single adults in Snohomish County. It can house up to 12 people.

About 3,200 students in Snohomish County schools are in various stages of homelessness, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. There already is a waiting list to get into Cocoon House, either at the main facility or at one of three shelters in Everett, Monroe and Arlington for shorter-term stays.

Youth homelessness also is more difficult to spot, said Julio Cortes, Cocoon House’s public relations manager and former youth advocate.

They’re still teens, they dress like their peers, they’re not on the street so much, but rather they couch-surf a lot, he said.

“A lot of the kids have the skills to be successful, they just don’t have the stability or support system to succeed,” Cortes said.

The organization’s U-Turn drop-in center, currently located on Broadway, also would move into the new building. U-Turn gets up to 40 teens dropping by each day for a shower, hot meal, extra clothes or just to hang out.

A dedicated clinic for visiting medical practitioners also is planned for the new center, as is more space for other social services.

“We want kids who aren’t seeking services to feel comfortable with us, so that when they are ready to engage in services they’ve got that connection with us,” Franklin said.

“We’ll be able to do much higher quality of care and services,” she said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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