by Sharon Maeda
For the next two years, those experiencing homelessness can seek out shelter at the former Keiro Northwest Rehabilitation & Care Center, now called the Yesler Family Center. The new owner/developer, Shelter Holdings, has just signed a two-year, no-cost lease with Mary’s Place, a premiere nonprofit organization currently providing over 800 beds for unsheltered women and their families across King County.
About this time last year, the news that Keiro Northwest (formerly Nikkei Concerns) was going to close their nursing home generated disbelief, fear and much anger in Seattle’s Japanese American community. The revered organization that had housed, treated and entertained elders over three generations was closing their doors, with little advance warning or financial transparency. Nursing homes, in general, face financial challenges with a growing aging population, rising costs and insufficient government reimbursements for the high costs of eldercare.
Yet, a couple of miles away on Rainier Avenue, Kin On – focused on Chinese American elders and originally patterned after Keiro – recently announced an expansion of their programs and facilities. And, while Keiro staff relocated the residents with care, seven residents died in the process. In addition, the community was very concerned that a potential new development would add to the gentrification already going on in the neighborhood.
But the new agreement with Shelter Holdings looks like at least a temporary benefit for the community. According to Marty Hartman, Mary’s Place executive director, “the Keiro Nursing Home was a place of respite, dignity, and respect for parents, grandparents, and loved ones in the community. We are honored to be in the building and to continue that legacy by providing shelter and hope for children and families.”
Mary’s Place will turn the nursing home into a 24/7 shelter for families with children who are experiencing homelessness. In addition to shelter, these residents will get on-site meals, job training, housing and wellness services provided by around-the-clock staff. Mary’s Place hopes to start moving in families in May after a few repairs to the facility. It will be similar to their Burien facility in the former Lake Milam Drug & Alcohol Treatment Center.
In 2019, Mary’s Place provided 171,909 overnight stays and helped 798 families move to stable housing. They rely on a broad mix of community, government and corporate financial support and hundreds of volunteers. To help them operate this new building, support their annual Dream Big (Virtual) Luncheon– all donations will be matched by up to $1 million by Amazon: www.marysplacedreambig.org.
For more information and volunteer opportunities, visit marysplaceseattle.org
Sharon Maeda has been a supporter of both Keiro Northwest and Mary’s Place since their inception. Coincidentally, her niece is currently Chief Development Officer at Mary’s Place.