Puyallup: News

Former homeless families share how local programs helped them

Helping Hand House executive director Kevin Bates and Bonnie Young stand together at the annual Helping Hand House breakfast. Young shared her story of how Helping Hand House helped get her back on her feet.
Helping Hand House executive director Kevin Bates and Bonnie Young stand together at the annual Helping Hand House breakfast. Young shared her story of how Helping Hand House helped get her back on her feet. Courtesy

In 1991, Puyallup resident Bonnie Young found herself living in a 24-foot trailer with eight other people.

She had just moved back to Washington state from Virginia, and her dwelling consisted of her husband, mother, father, sister, nephew, two daughters and her son.

She’d grown up in Washington state, living in the Auburn and Bremerton areas, her father working in a shipyard. She married in 1998, and after moving to several different states, returned home to Washington.

But that’s when things fell apart.

“Five days after we got here, my husband decided he wanted a divorce … I didn’t know what to do,” Young said.

It wasn’t long before Young’s family was facing homelessness. She hadn’t worked in several years, having to take care of her young children. She now faced finding a job, and they weren’t coming easy.

She went to the Washington State Department of Health Services, and that’s where she heard about Helping Hand House, an organization that provides emergency shelter and housing solutions to families facing homelessness.

Helping Hand House is an organization located on South Hill that provides emergency shelter and housing solutions to families facing homelessness.

“Within a couple of days, they called and said, ‘We have a house for you,’” Young said.

Young and her family now had a roof over their heads — but the hurdles didn’t stop there. Young still needed to find work. Her social worker at the time, Pat Williams, who is now the director of housing operations for Helping Hand House, suggested returning to school.

Young hadn’t thought about it, but she decided to go to Bates Technical College for dental assisting. She graduated a few months later, and was eventually able to move her family into an apartment in 2002. Her two daughters graduated from Puyallup High School, with her son expected to graduate this year.

“It was a life support,” Young said about Helping Hand House. “They were the ones who gave me the tools to get out of that hole.”

It was a life support. They were the ones who gave me the tools to get out of that hole.

Bonnie Young

Fifteen years later, Young shared her story at the Helping Hand House Annual Development Breakfast on Oct. 24. She wasn’t the only one who had a story of getting back on her feet thanks to the organization.

Rachael Milan, a Puyallup resident with two kids attending Kalles Junior High School, started with Helping Hand House’s Rapid Rehousing Program in January. The program provided Milan and her children with financial assistance to help them recover quickly, and she now lives in a new apartment in Puyallup.

“It’s given us a lot of hope and support,” Milan said.

At the annual breakfast, nearly 200 supporters gathered to hear the impacts Helping Hand House has made on the community. The organization acquired one new house for families this year, bringing its total to eight houses.

Every year, one house can help six families, said Helping Hand House executive director Kevin Bates.

By the end of the year, Helping Hand House will have helped 46 families, 17 more than last year. A Family Transportation Program also launched this year, with two cars provided for the cause. One of the cars was given to one of the families.

46 homeless families helped this year through Helping Hand House.

Next year, Bates hopes to acquire another house for the program to help even more families.

“The bottom line is there’s still too many homeless children,” Bates said.

It might not be so simple to solve the issue of homelessness in Puyallup, Bates said at the breakfast, but Helping Hand House is doing what they can to help, and hearing the success stories of local families makes all the hard work worth it.

“It’s why we do what we do,” Bates said. “This is why we go to work in the morning.”

Both Milan and Young want other families to know that Helping Hand House is an effective and lasting resource.

“These families need to know the program works, and you just have to work at it,” Young said.

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison

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