This is one of a collection of stories about philanthropy in Snohomish County.
EVERETT — Thirty years ago, Todd Morrow noticed more families in cars.
There weren’t shelters in Everett at the time that accommodated entire families. Fathers and teenage boys would leave their loved ones and head toward the mission on Smith Avenue.
And not everyone was guaranteed a warm place to sleep. More than 3,600 people in Snohomish County were turned away from emergency shelters in 1987.
That same year, an organization was founded in Everett that would help families around Snohomish County overcome homelessness. Nearly 70 housing developments have been built since then, and more than 280 families have constructed their own homes through a sweat-equity program.
Housing Hope also offers employment, education and childcare services.
Todd Morrow, 56, and his mother, Shirley, have been a part of Housing Hope since the start.
Shirley Morrow, 83, realized there was only so much her church could do.
First Presbyterian Church occasionally offered families a night in a hotel. She was one of the brains behind Dinner at the Bell where more than 130 people gather every Wednesday for a home-cooked meal. She was known for cooking food “your grandma would make,” such as Jell-O salad.
“That’s the important thing about this. Dinners like that, or Housing Hope, it’s treating people well just like we would want our families to be treated,” Todd Morrow said.
Shirley Morrow watched as properties around town were grabbed up for new development projects. Affordable housing options were disappearing, she said. There also weren’t regulations yet requiring landlords to provide a valid reason before evicting tenants.
She joined a task force focused on reducing homelessness. From there, the vision for Housing Hope was formed.
“I see it as a time when people were becoming aware of others in need,” Shirley Morrow said. “The world wasn’t a good place for everyone.”
Todd Morrow, who had just graduated from law school, joined the organization’s board. He drew up the articles of incorporation.
The first property Housing Hope acquired was a small apartment building on the corner of Norton Avenue and 35th Street. Members from First Presbyterian adopted one of the apartments. They furnished and cleaned the unit. Todd Morrow remembers inviting the family to go bowling and to spend an afternoon at the beach in Mukilteo.
“It was a good chance for church members to realize the families are just like theirs,” he said.
In 1992, the board raised $50,000 within a couple weeks. The money was used for a down payment on what they call Century House, a home for single mothers and their children. Shirley Morrow once taught a kindergartner who lived there. The child’s mother signed up for a parenting class through Housing Hope.
“She was really trying, and upbeat. She’d tease me about the food I brought,” Shirley Morrow said with a grin.
She was dubbed the “cookie mom” because she always brought treats for the parents.
The nonprofit decided early on that making services such as parenting classes available was essential.
“We knew if we really wanted to help folks, we needed to do more than provide a place to live,” Todd Morrow said. “We needed to give them the tools to break the cycle of poverty.”
The College of Hope offers these life-skills classes. Transportation, childcare and a meal is included.
Case managers meet with tenants on a regular basis. Together, they set goals, make a budget, talk through educational opportunities and track down additional resources, if needed.
A child development center opened on the Housing Hope campus in Everett. In additional to child care, the center provides parental counseling and in-home family visits.
HopeWorks, an off-shoot of the nonprofit, launched in 2011. The organization has paid internships so that people can gain skills in jobs that are in high demand.
“If this hadn’t been done, oh my goodness. Wait lists for self-help would be much longer,” Shirley Morrow said. “You know there’s hope in the world.”
Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org.