SMOKEY POINT — Planners at Housing Hope picture the nonprofit’s newest and largest project as a place where families can seize opportunities and the community can address the causes of poverty.
Twin Lakes Landing, west of I-5 near the Costco and Twin Lakes County Park, is designed to house 50 families at a time. Plans call for a central courtyard, community building, playground and sports courts.
The goal is to break ground before the end of the year, said Bobby Thompson, director of housing for the organization. It’ll likely take about eight months to build, which means it could be finished as soon as July or August. The land was purchased and planning started about three years ago.
Modular units, which come pre-built and are assembled on site, will be used for the project, he said.
Housing Hope has completed 69 projects around Snohomish County, which includes multifamily developments and team home building, where prospective homeowners help construct their houses in place of a down payment. The goal is to give low-income and homeless families a safe place to live and a chance to improve their lives. The majority of families served by the nonprofit have children.
Housing Hope was founded nearly 30 years ago in Everett but soon spread to other cities.
“It was really early on in our history that we developed a strategy to place the housing where the residents are,” CEO Fred Safstrom said.
Usually, families who lose their homes have some kind of local support from friends, churches or schools. It doesn’t make sense to take them away from that, he said.
The first project in north Snohomish County was Lervick Family Village in Stanwood. It sparked other projects in Marysville and Arlington. Then the nonprofit branched into east county. There now are separate boards of directors focused on the north and east portions of the county.
Monroe Family Village is the most recently completed project, and the largest to date. It has 47 apartments and a community space with classes and connections to public resources. The community area also offers kids’ activities and a place for neighborhood meetings and support groups.
“There’s a whole range of activities that only become possible when you have a critical mass of people,” Safstrom said.
Of the 50 families who would be housed at Twin Lakes Landing, 38 would be people who currently live somewhere that isn’t considered safe for human habitation, such as a car or shack, Safstrom said.
“This is a population that’s hidden, but it’s a large part of the homelessness in the county,” he said. “If you’re a family with a child and you’re homeless, you lose your child. So they stay hidden.”
Snohomish County maintains a list of eligible families. People can learn more about getting help by calling 2-1-1. Admission into Housing Hope units is prioritized by need. A housing specialist helps families assess their needs and a coach helps them work toward goals such as education and careers.
Providing people with a place to live isn’t the end of Housing Hope’s mission. Stable homes are the foundation for people to climb out of poverty, Safstrom said.
“We can’t do anything for anybody,” he said. “But we can help them.”
Twin Lakes Landing is close to public transportation, a health clinic and a family resource center. A food pantry is planned on site that would be open to anyone, as would classes in the community space.
The cost of the project is about $15 million. Money comes from a mix of tax credits, grants, donations and financing.
“What’s so exciting for me with this project is if you become homeless in Smokey Point, you don’t have to leave your community,” Housing Hope spokeswoman Sara Haner said. “You can stay at your church. Your kids can stay in their school.”
Creating a sense of community is crucial to helping people find long-term stability.
In Monroe, families started putting up Halloween decorations and setting out pumpkins in October. That’s a huge step for many of them, Thompson said.
“It’s a transformation for these households where things that we accept as normalcy start to become the norm for them,” he said. “And for a lot of these kids, this is the first time they’ve had that.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.