Helping Hand House, a Puyallup-based nonprofit that aims to help homeless families find permanent housing, is forever grateful to the South Hill Rotary.
The South Hill Rotary recently donated a second duplex to Helping Hand House, free and clear, to aid in enhancing the nonprofit’s emergency housing program.
“The Rotary has doubled our capacity to serve families that are in emergency situations,” said Duke Paulson, executive director of Helping Hand House.
In addition to the two duplexes donated from South Hill Rotary, Helping Hand House owns four other homes for its emergency housing program.
Paulson, members of the Puyallup City Council, representatives of the South Hill Rotary, state Rep. Hans Zeiger, Jan Mauk from Communities in Schools of Puyallup and Shelly Schlumpf and her staff from the Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce unveiled the new duplex near Puyallup High School during a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 28.
“We started out (25 years ago) helping Helping Hand House by paying for rent for emergency housing for families,” said Trish Cole, president of South Hill Rotary. “That evolved into purchasing a duplex. We thought, ‘Why rent when we can buy?’”
It was more than a decade ago when the Rotary purchased the first of two duplexes.
The club, through strong fundraising, had the first duplex paid off in five years and gifted to Helping Hand House, Cole said. The second duplex was purchased on a five-year loan and paid off in three years.
Three main fundraisers have aided the Rotary in accomplishing its long-term goal of providing housing. Those events include the annual parking fundraiser during the Washington State Fair, the Hounds on the Hill event each August (the next is Aug. 15) and the Silver and Gold Raffle every February.
South Hill Rotary has agreed to pay property taxes on the two duplexes in perpetuity and be responsible for the maintenance of the house exteriors.
“We make this part of our annual budget,” Cole said.
For example, the club is putting a new roof on the original duplex this summer. For its part, Helping Hand House maintains the interior of the properties, Paulson said.
On Thursday, a family of five was given the keys to one unit of the new duplex. Families do not need to purchase new furniture or utensils.
“All furniture in the new units is provided by Northwest Furniture Bank,” Paulson said. “The community that donates to Helping Hand House has provided plates, linens, blankets, cleaning supplies and age appropriate books and toys for each of the children.”
Paulson said the food bank provides a full week of meals. When it’s time for the family to move on into permanent housing, they are welcome to take all the utensils, books, toys and bedding and linens with them.
Families stay for a minimum of two weeks. If the family is engaged with their case manager and is making progress in fixing the problems that made them homeless, then their stay is extended in two-week increments until permanent housing is found, Paulson said.
“An average stay is 40 to 50 days,” he said. “We’re creating a safe spot for them while we find a permanent place for them. Our goal is to get them into an apartment rental unit, where the lease is in their name. At that point, it’s considered permanent housing.”
Paulson, who serves as president-elect for South Hill Rotary, said the club does great things for the Puyallup community.
“South Hill Rotary is an amazing, passionate group of people,” he said.
In Pierce County there are only about 40 emergency housing units. As one community organization, South Hill Rotary has provided roughly 10 percent of the shelters. The club’s long-term goal of supporting Helping Hand House is just one of many projects it carries out year-round.
“It’s part of our mission,” Cole said. “It’s what Rotarians are dedicated to doing — giving back to the community.”
Knowing the duplex is already in use is a fantastic feeling for Rotarians.
“It’s exciting to get the families in there right away,” she said. “The outcome of getting them out of homelessness is very rewarding. The kids get to stay in school. They get the lift they need to move in the right direction.”
As the club continues to strengthen existing fundraisers and add new fundraisers, purchasing a third duplex is not out of the scope of what the Rotary would do, Cole added.
Andrew Fickes: 253-472-0341