Open just a year, the house is known as ESTEEM — the Emergency Shelter to Empower and Educate Mothers. To Ashlie Belt and her toddler son, that house near the Everett Mall became a real home, a first step forward after leaving inpatient drug treatment.
Belt, 32, recently moved from the shelter house, which is operated by the Parent-Child Assistance Program of Snohomish County, under the umbrella of the nonprofit Pacific Treatment Alternatives.
“It was the biggest stepping stone coming out of treatment. I’ve been a year clean. I don’t know what I would have done without them,” Belt said of the house where she spent five months, and of the PCAP staff who helped with her transition. “I needed somebody to guide me. I honestly feel that was the missing piece.”
For Belt, who began using opiates as a teen, time in the ESTEEM house followed a six-month stay in an Evergreen Recovery Centers residential addiction treatment program for mothers.
Today, the house now sheltering four moms and five children is at risk of closure, due to the loss of a major funding source. Since opening last November, it’s been supported by a basic needs grant from United Way of Snohomish County, totaling $90,000 since July 2019, and also by the Tulalip Tribes and private donors.
“With COVID, we’ve seen a revenue decline,” said Lark Kesterke, the local United Way’s interim president and CEO. Kesterke said Friday that the agency is ending basic needs grants for a dozen programs that had been funded in the past year.
The original grant for the Pacific Treatment Alternatives house, for July 1, 2019-July 1, 2020, was $74,000, and it has been extended through Dec. 31 to total $90,000. It will stop at the end of the year, along with 11 other grants to organizations that serve children, prenatal to age 8, Kesterke said.
Basic needs grants to individual organizations are separate from grants that have been committed to United Way’s “CORE Collaboratives,” groups working to end generational poverty in the community. Those also help young families, Kesterke said.
She said United Way’s board is closely monitoring resources and seeing “volatility in the marketplace,” with some local companies and their employees struggling during the pandemic. “All grants are dependent on pledges,” she said.
Loss of the United Way grant doesn’t necessarily mean the ESTEEM house will have to close.
“We are applying for grants like crazy,” said Debbie Graham, executive director and clinical supervisor with Pacific Treatment Alternatives. That effort includes reapplying for a grant from the Tulalip Tribes, which provided $10,000 in June, Graham said. The nonprofit has also reached out to churches and other funding organizations.
And with a pandemic-related federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, “we can keep it open a couple months,” said Graham, who fears the shelter may have to shut down by the end of March. “We don’t want to have to close it,” she said. “We’ve helped 18 families since we opened.”
Maintaining the program costs about $5,000 per month in rent for the home plus expenses and some staff time, Graham said.
“To live at the house, they need to have a pretty solid recovery,” Graham said. All the mothers are over 18, with most in their 20s. Children have ranged from infants to a 7-year-old. Residents stay involved with recovery through the Parent-Child Assistance Program, formerly called Safe Babies, Safe Moms.
As her 1-year-old son, Kaiden Hoffman, played at her side, Belt talked Friday about the help she continues to receive.
She now lives at the YWCA’s Trinity Place Apartments in Lynnwood, where she continues to take part in 12-step meetings — now online due to the pandemic. She also stays in touch with her Parent-Child Assistance Program case manager, and has been involved in Snohomish County Family Drug Treatment Court.
Ashleigh Desvigne-Lee, a lead family advocate with the YWCA’s Project Reunite, said the goal for Belt now is to graduate after a year’s compliance with project requirements to receive a housing voucher. “Here, we’re trying to create self-sufficiency,” she said.
“I’ve had a very, very hard life,” said Belt. Her mother, she said, was also an addict. And Belt has two older children who live with family. Her little boy was in foster care for a time, but later was with her in treatment and in the ESTEEM house.
She has maintained a friendship with another mother, Samantha Lynn Brittain, who was among the house residents. Brittain, who has two young sons, also marked a year of sobriety last month and is now living independently in Snohomish.
“You basically learn to live in the real world again,” Brittain said of her time in the ESTEEM house.
Belt said people struggling with addiction shouldn’t give up hope. “You’re not alone. It’s not impossible. Just take the first step,” she said.
Julie Muhlstein: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to help
To make a donation to Pacific Treatment Alternatives: https://pactrt.org/donate/
Learn more about the Parent-Child Assistance Program: https://pactrt.org/pcap/about-2/