As the father of five children, longtime Puyallup resident Kevin Bates puts his family first.
As the new executive director of Helping Hand House, Bates is putting the area’s most vulnerable families first, too.
“I came from a large family — I have a large family,” said Bates, 48. “As a parent, when I see a family in distress, my heart hurts for the parents and for the kids.”
I came from a large family — I have a large family. As a parent, when I see a family in distress, my heart hurts for the parents and for the kids.
Kevin Bates, executive director of Helping Hand House
Helping Hand House is an organization based out of South Hill that provides emergency shelter and housing solutions to families facing homelessness in Pierce County. For more than a year, the organization has been developing and evolving a new brand identity.
“We wanted to determine who we were going to be (moving forward), and then put someone in (the executive director) seat,” Bates said. “We are going to stay focused on ensuring that our resources are used well.”
Helping Hand House’s website is currently under construction. Its new logo represents three elements of the organization’s mission: serving families, lending its own helping hand and using love as the main motivation of its employees and volunteers.
“We went back to our roots,” Helping Hand House board president Shawn Manley said. “In order to get back there, we had to do a lot of self-evaluating and honing.”
The organization turned its focus to not just providing housing for families in need, but doing so promptly. It began funding its own emergency shelter program this year, which means getting families in a unit within 24 hours, Bates said.
“We don’t think a shelter should stay empty for longer than three to five days. If we have an opening, we’re going to get them in,” Bates said, adding that “emergency shelters are the number one need in the community.”
We don’t think a shelter should stay empty for longer than three to five days. If we have an opening, we’re going to get them in.
Helping Hand House helps more than 100 families a year, but Bates expects that number to rise this year with an emphasis on urgent relief for families. There were 4,397 homeless youths in Pierce County last year, according to the McKinney Vento Act that requires school districts to make the count.
“There’s always going to be a need for our services,” Bates said.
Bates wants to focus on solving homelessness for families in the long run with the help of the organization’s private label rapid rehousing program, which puts leases in the families’ name.
Bates also wants to grow the organization’s donor and volunteer base, and plans to visit as many service clubs as he can in the Pierce County area.
“The community is our biggest resource,” said Helping Hand House board member Jaki Graham. “It’s awesome to see people rally around our work, because these are their neighbors.”
Bates was born and raised in Tacoma and spent 20 years traveling the country for nonprofit real estate lending. He settled down in Puyallup 12 years ago, and became a board member for Helping Hand House in 2015. From the beginning, he’s had a passion for Helping Hand House’s mission.
“When people think about the homeless, they think of individuals they see,” Bates said. “Families are hidden.”
For Bates, ending family homelessness is a dream job.
“I’m really happy about this — to finally be doing what I’ve been wanting to do,” he said.