If you’ve never been homeless, it might be hard to imagine the hardships of finding a warm place to sleep on a freezing night and the perpetual hollowness of an empty stomach. Add on addiction or mental illness and the struggles increase.
Tina Tate, the executive director of Friendship House in Mount Vernon, knows this challenge well. Addicted to methamphetamines, she spent two years homeless. That changed when Tate arrived at Friendship House and received a warm welcome. She became a resident at this clean and sober shelter and entered their 90-day program, which included establishing a morning routine, participating in daily chores, and a personalized action plan to become self-sufficient.
“I think my whole life has prepared me for this. I’ve always wanted to help people and do something for the world, but my life got off track. When I finally got to a sound place, I realized I could really make a difference,” says Tate, 52. “This is my dream job, and the knowledge I have of what it’s like to be on the streets helps me to understand the complexity of this issue and seek out a balance.”
ON A MISSION TO HELP
The mission of Friendship House is to “reflect the heart of God by feeding, sheltering, clothing and healing those in need.” Residents get three meals a day and support from a caring staff while living in one of two shelter homes: one for women and children, and another for men—the only men’s shelter in Skagit County. Friendship House’s operating budget of more than $500,000 (as of 2017) is funded mostly by donations, government grants, and private foundations.
“I am so proud of our staff,” says Tate. “They are passionate, visionary, and dedicated, and I feel really lucky to have them as a team.” Together they manage three shelters (including one in winter) the cafe, transitional housing, and a permanent residence as well as providing clothing, showers, and laundry services.
CREATING SAFE SPACES
At the Friendship House Café anyone can come for dinner, no questions asked. Shelter residents may also enroll in Hunger to Hope, a 12-week training program to gain employment in the food service industry.
Tate’s first project, Barbara’s House, provides permanent residential housing for former shelter residents on social security and disability. In 2017, she opened the winter shelter with the help of The North Cascade Seventh-day Adventist Church and Skagit County. The low barrier shelter provides a warm and safe place for up to 23 individuals on a first-come basis, including those still struggling with addictions.
En Vogue, their annual March fashion show fundraiser that requires designers to use repurposed materials, is set for March 7 at the Swinomish Casino and Lodge (see website below).
ON THE HORIZON
A growing homeless population has prompted Skagit County commissioners to discuss building a 20,000-square-foot “recovery campus” to provide multiple services for the homeless, with Friendship House a potential partner. It’s early, says Tate, but “to have a huge cutting-edge facility for the homeless has been my dream for the last four years.”
922 S. 3rd St., Mount Vernon
360.336.6138 | skagitfriendshiphouse.org
For more stories like this, check out our article on Hearts to Soles by clicking here.