… to Kitsap Homes of Compassion!
✅ 14 Shared Homes currently in operation (65 rooms/71 beds)
✅ 12 More Homes planned to be opened in the next 18 months (60 more rooms)
Established in 2017, Kitsap Homes of Compassion, a 501c3 non-profit, was created to help end the problem of homelessness in Kitsap County using an economically viable process.
Our goal is to create deeply affordable, long-term, supportive housing for homeless of all categories: seniors, disabled homeless, youth and homeless mothers with young children; in short – the most vulnerable.
How the Program Works…
This is accomplished through our “Affordable Home Program”. Single men or women, mostly over 55 years old, or disabled, that are homeless, can apply for our program through Kitsap Community Services’ (KCR) Housing Solutions Center. (For disabled homeless on SSDI, there may some age exception for those as young as 40 years old. And the homes for homeless mothers have no age restrictions. In 2020, it is planned to create homes for all age categories, including younger singles and couples).
Members enjoy their own private room, or a shared room, in a nice residential 4 to 6 bedroom home, with shared areas of the house being: kitchen, dining room, and living room. House chores are divided among participants. There are men’s homes and women’s homes. Homes are not crowded, with only 4 to 6 adults per home.
We like to call our homes “family homes” instead of group homes, and participants are “KHOC family members” or “members” instead of “clients” or “participants”. One of our goals is to use many of the concepts founds in the “clubhouse model,” used in the world-famous “Fountain House” run by Kenn Dudek, and “Clubhouse International” – from their over 70 year experience assisting individuals with mental health issues. This includes assisting members get paid part-time (5 to 15 hr/wk) jobs in the community, for those who are physically capable – having an appropriate job helps build self-esteem and confidence. Our plans are to provide members that are interested with computer training and shared computers to the homes (KHOC provides internet Wifi in all homes).
In calendar year 2019, KHOC was able to house more chronically homeless individuals into permanent long-term housing, than any other organization in Kitsap County. This was accomplished through the partnership, cooperation and financial support of KCR, Kitsap Connect, and many other organizations.
Members also have the support of a Kitsap Homes of Compassion (KHOC) House Manager. The trained and qualified house manager meets weekly with the members in their home, as a group, to help them work together as a house and as a team. The objective of the House Manager is to help the participants not just to survive, but to thrive and enjoy a full and fulfilling life. This is one of the differences that make it “supportive housing” and not just housing.
This Affordable Home Program is NOT designed for people with drug addictions, but rather for individuals (physically able to live independently) needing an affordable place to live, and don’t mind living in a shared home. This program might be good for those with minor physical disabilities, mental disabilities, or minor mental health issues. Shared house living also provides some companionship from other housemates, reducing loneliness, a major challenge many elderly face.
Regarding alcohol use, KHOC operates two types of homes, one is a “zero tolerance” home where all alcohol and intoxication is strictly prohibited anywhere in the home, and a second lower barrier home type, where alcohol can be consumed in moderation in their private room but not allowed in common areas of the home, and being intoxicated in common areas of the home is prohibited.
The program also provides training possibilities for the members to learn more about personal finance, budgeting, group dynamics, and conflict resolution skills.
Every year in Kitsap County, around 1,200 people experience homelessness. About one-forth of those are chronically homeless. Over half are seniors or disabled without drug or alcohol addictions. We can solve this part of the problem today by creating affordable housing using existing housing inventory. A solution is within reach!
Countdown to end homelessness – 61 formerly chronically homeless are now living in permanent homes! We have 239 yet to assist. Estimated remaining homes needed = 48.
KHOC currently operates homes in Bremerton, Port Orchard, Central Kitsap, and Poulsbo. They are all located close to bus stops. Additional homes are in the planning stage throughout the county – but it is dependent on financial support and volunteers. Currently KHOC has temporarily stopped opening more homes until it can hire an administrator for its office – as KHOC is at maximum capacity without additional office staff.
The program is designed to be significantly self funding, with the funding coming mainly from the monthly program fee which the participants pay themselves (usually from their Social Security/SSDI/or SSI). The monthly program fee the participants pay is also used to cover all the utilities, cable TV, and internet in the home. The largest cost is the lease for the homes, as KHOC does not own any property.
The bottom line is, through the use of trained volunteers and the use of these homeless men and women’s own financial resources which they receive through Social Security, we are able to create permanent housing for them at a very low cost. [When using volunteer house managers]. Our main non-covered costs are the one-time costs needed to start a new home, which runs only approximately $5,000 per home, or $1,000 per person! It is our goal to try and get the cost as low as possible, to make the program as self-funding and financially sustainable as possible, apart from the need of major donations or large grants. Thus, it will be more reproducible and scalable. (But for now, we need $5,000 in one-time donations to start each “new home”. Additionally, on-going funding for office and accounting staff is required to make the organization sustainable. Currently, KHOC is close to reaching its limit at 14 homes with primarily volunteer office staff, and funding for paid office staff will be needed for further expansion and organizational long-term sustainability. KHOC is seeking private and grant funding so it can keep growing).
Once a home is established and occupied, about 90% of the costs are covered by the fee participants pay with their social security (avg participant cost is about $600/mo). The remaining 10% of costs need to come from monthly donations.
To start a new shared home, the one-time cost needed (the portion not paid by the participants themselves) is only $5,000!
Scalability is one of the most important factors for any model to be successful. To that end, KHOC does not purchase the home(s) it uses for its program (as that would be too capital intensive, and therefore limiting and non-scalable or reproducible), but rather, KHOC leases existing “single family” homes on the open rental market, at market rates. The homeowner(s) (and/or their management company) are aware of, and agree to, the use of their home for this program – and they receive the same net “rent” as if a single family, or group of sailors, was leasing their home. Fresh homes for lease come on the rental market every week in the county. We believe there are enough homes and/or 3BR apartments available to house all the eligible homeless in Kitsap County – thus potentially permanently reducing homelessness by 70% or more.
KHOC also has a staff training program to prepare future “House Managers” for the future new homes it will be opening. (For more info on becoming a home manager volunteer, please reply using the “Contact” tab). The key to the success of this program is the trained house managers who meet weekly with the residents.
Bottom Line – 4 out of 5 homeless are successful with KHOC’s program, and able to live long-term in these homes!
Since starting this program, we have observed how those who were previously chronically homeless, once they have a home, stability, and moral support, have seen their lives changed. From Sep. 2018 to Dec. 31, 2019 (16 months), KHOC has housed 82 individuals. Many of our participants who had been formerly unemployed for years, now having the stability of a home, have been able to get regular part-time employment – and enjoy the dignity and self-esteem that comes along with that accomplishment. One older gentleman said, “for the first time in 16 years I now have a regular job! It makes me feel energetic like a teenager again! This home has changed my life.” Most of those with mental health issues have seen improvement in their overall function, after having their housing stabilized by having a permanent home. Likewise, those with physical disabilities have seen their condition improve, resulting in fewer visits to the emergency room. Additionally, we have seen little turnover of residents: since starting in Sept. 2018 till Jan. 1, 2020, of the 82 people provided housing, 68% of the residents are still the original residents! (13% of the original residents have moved on to better housing [moved in with friends/relatives/nursing homes/etc.], and another 14% had mental or physical health conditions that were too severe to live long-term in shared housing and ended up leaving our program by expulsion due to repeat house rule or program agreement violations; 5% left their group home by their own choice to go back to homelessness. Progress statistic results are tabulated quarterly to help in on-going management decision making).
We have a plan to end homelessness, not perpetuate it.
For the population segment of homeless adults that do not have drug addictions (and the majority of them do not have drug addictions), and have a steady source of income of at least $700/mo (i.e. SSDI, SSI, or Social Security), there is a solution to homelessness within our reach – and that is to create more affordable housing options.
For hundreds of years, small groups of people and extended families have been living together in single homes as a solution to homelessness (i.e. extended family homes and boarding homes). It is only in recent history that societies could afford large homes with only 1 or 2 inhabitants. What KHOC is doing is nothing new, but thousands of years old.
Compassion for people is what motivates us to find long-term lasting solutions to the inhumanity of the needless suffering caused by homelessness in our rainy, cold climate of the Northwest. Thus, we are working at creating homes of compassion, a refuge of relief, in a peaceful permanent “home” environment, not a temporary “shelter” (although there is a need for shelters) or institutional environment. The answer for most who are chronically homeless is long-term supportive housing. It is inhumane to allow another human to live unsheltered for the sole reason of them being chronically ill (mentally or physically). As a “neighbor,” it is our responsibility, as a civilized society, to house the chronically ill – at a minimum. If our federal, state, and/or local governments are not able to accomplish this minimal task, it is every citizen’s responsibility to vote in new leadership to accomplish the task and/or, band together and develop systems to house the disabled ourselves.
Blueprint Plan to End Homelessness in Kitsap County
Phase 1 – Housing the chronic homeless with supportive homes
Studies have shown that around 25% of individuals who experience unsheltered homelessness are chronically homes, as apposed to being homeless one time during a year. And other studies have shown that this population is also the most vulnerable, with up to 90% of the chronically homeless having a serious chronic mental illness or physical illness, most being legally disabled. This population is also the most likely to be abused and victimized while being homeless. Therefore, it is KHOC’s first goal to house this population segment via shared homes with house managers for support. It has been KHOC’s experience that 75% of this category can successfully live in a shared home. The remaining 25% seem to be too disabled to be successful in a shared home without full-time live-in staff, so that more severely disabled population segment would need the more intensive type of supportive housing apartment which Kitsap Mental Health is planning to operate at Pendelton Place which will have 24/7 onsite staff.
Numerically, if Kitsap County has 1,200 people who experience outside homelessness per year, that would mean 25% would be about 300 individuals who are chronically homeless. If 75% of that population are of a disability severity level that can be handled by, KHOC , that would be 225 individuals. As of 1/15/2020, KHOC has 70 beds, which is 31% of the way of reaching our goal of 225 individuals.
Phase 2 – Housing the non-chronically homeless with shared homes
After KHOC has reached its goal of housing the 225 chronically homeless who need supportive housing, its next goal will be to house the next category of unsheltered homeless, those who are not chronically homeless but experience one-time homelessness due to a lack of affordable housing. This population segment tends to have less physically and mental disability than the chronic homeless category (or many may have no disability at all), and require less human support in their housing. They are higher functioning, more independent, and their primary need is affordable housing, that is housing that can fit their limited financial budget. For this group, affordable shared housing without the need for weekly house meetings facilitated by an outside house manager may be enough. This category of shared homes would be easier for KHOC to operate due to its greater self-sufficiency of the residents.
Numerically, if Kitsap County has 1,200 people who experience outside homelessness per year, that would mean 75% would be about 900 individuals who homeless one-time, non-chronic homeless, and higher functioning with less physical and mental disability. If shared homes were used, at 5 people per home, that would require 180 homes to house them.
Phase 3 – Housing the sheltered homeless with shared homes
The final group of homeless are those who are homeless, but not outside homeless. These are often called “couch surfing” homeless – those staying temporarily with friends or family. The main barrier for housing of this category usually is not a physical or mental disability, but usually a financial issue – not able to find housing they can afford for their income. Shared housing can create affordable housing within their budget.
Kitsap County estimates there are between 2,000 and 4,000 individuals in this category. With high functioning individuals, helping these folks network to create shared homes may be all the help they need to build healthy housemate living situations.
There is hope!
Yes, being homeless is traumatic. It is traumatic to the homeless individual and it can be traumatic to their family members, their grown children and relatives. Having a serious physical or mental illness or condition is traumatic. But there is hope! Living in a shared home is possible. With help and support, people’s mental and physical conditions can improve. A supportive environment that brings positive change is possible. And as a society, we are not powerless to bring change.
Compassion for vulnerable adults of our society, the disabled of our society, and the chronically mentally and physically ill of our society is needed. It is not a character flaw to have an illness. As an American society we can and must do better at serving our vulnerable, to help and protect them. We must create homes of compassion.
Kitsap Homes of Compassion does not discriminate based on race or religious belief. All are welcome! (DISCLAIMER: While Kitsap Homes of Compassion is a registered private nonprofit charity corporation not associated with any religion or religious organization or church, some of its volunteers are motivated to serve from their personal religious convictions to love and help the vulnerable. Any religious views, thoughts, or opinions expressed by any volunteer or staff person are solely their own opinion and do not represent the KHOC as an organization.)
(For the safety and privacy of the participants, the location of the homes are kept confidential, and the names of the participants are kept confidential.)