Rick Steves donates apartment complex to YWCA

LYNNWOOD — With acts of charity, as with his globetrotting, Rick Steves just can’t seem to stay still.

The travel guidebook author and TV host from Edmonds announced Thursday that he’s giving away a 24-unit Lynnwood apartment complex he owns to YWCA Seattle King Snohomish.

“Now the (YWCA) can plan into the future knowing this facility is theirs,” he wrote in a blog Thursday. “And I’ll forever enjoy knowing that, with this gift, I’m still helping them with their mission.”

The complex is valued at $4 million. He was doing guidebook research in Italy on Friday and unavailable for comment.

The generosity comes just months after Steves made a multimillion-dollar donation to an Edmonds Senior Center building project.

Steves, 61, has long been active in political and social causes. He’s well-known as an advocate for reforming drug laws, but says affordable housing has long been a passion. In his blog, he explained how he nurtured the idea over decades.

He made his first move in 1990 when he bought a duplex next door to his church, Trinity Lutheran in Lynnwood. Working with the congregation, they offered the building to a local non­profit to house local homeless moms and their kids. He soon bought three more neighboring duplexes. After plans to build a new low-income community from scratch grew complicated, he opted instead to buy an existing apartment complex.

Steves bought the complex on 46th Avenue West, near the Lynnwood Fred Meyer store, in 2005. The name Trinity Place is a nod to his church. For the past dozen years, he has teamed up with YWCA and the Edmonds Noon Rotary to run the housing program there. Most tenants are low-income single moms who would otherwise be homeless.

“‘We’re so incredibly grateful to Rick,” said Mary Anne Dillon-Bryant, executive director for YWCA’s Snohomish County region.

The housing programs are more needed than ever now that housing prices and rent have shot up in the Puget Sound region, Dillon-Bryant said.

At Trinity Place, tenants pay 30 percent of their income toward rent. The rest is covered by a voucher from the Housing Authority of Snohomish County. After a year, they receive a voucher to pay to move elsewhere.

Dillon-Bryant said at least 85 percent of the women who participate in the program move into other permanent housing and manage to stay there. The overall goal is to help women build careers and further their children’s education.

“If families do not have a safe place to sleep at night, it is impossible for them to focus on employment and school and the basic things that people take for granted,” she said.

Trinity Place aims to reunite moms with their children, said Annalee Schafranek, a YWCA public relations and marketing manager. Services there include drug treatment, job-skills training, legal advocacy and mental health counseling. Sixty people lived at the complex during the past year.

Months before making his intentions public, Steves reached out quietly to let the nonprofit know what he had in mind.

“I can only hope that he is as inspiring to other people as much as he is to us, in terms of how much he is giving back to his community,” Schafranek said. “That’s just the financial value. For the women who live at Trinity place and the organization as a whole, we cannot overstate the value of owning the property.”

Steves has been making a living from travel writing for more than 40 years. His business, Rick Steves’ Europe, now employs more than 100 people full time. He hosts a public television program and a weekly radio show.

In his blog, he said the 2016 election and “the rise of a new, greed-is-good ethic in our government” spurred him to act.

In December, he pledged $2 million toward the Edmonds Senior Center’s plan to build a new $11 million waterfront facility. He promised to provide another million in matching funds if others donate $1 million to the project.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Support the YWCA

YWCA is hosting its annual Snohomish County Luncheon on May 16. Titled, “Women &Girls Rising,” the keynote speaker is Terry McMillan, the bestselling author of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and “Waiting to Exhale.” It’s scheduled from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Xfinity Arena’s Edward D. Hansen Conference Center.

There is no cost to register, but guests will be asked to make a $150 suggested gift at the event.

Donations support survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence survivors as well as affordable housing and job training.

To register or learn more, go to www.ywcaworks.org/luncheons or call 206-490-4378.

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