Holy Family Parish in Kirkland, Washington, initiated the New Bethlehem Project in October 2014 as part of its strategic planning process. A group of volunteers, guided by Father Kurt Nagel and facilitated by Linda DeBoldt and John Goddard, identified homelessness as an issue the parish wanted to address as a community. These volunteers researched the issue of homelessness by reaching out to other organizations actively serving homeless populations.
The Holy Family Kirkland group, joined by representatives of St. Louise Parish, created a mission statement framing the actions they believed needed to be addressed. They identified three goals:
- Create a day center for families experiencing homelessness,
- Extend operation of the temporary Eastside Emergency Overnight Shelter and
- Build a permanent emergency facility.
The City of Kirkland, which was actively planning on the construction of a women’s shelter, began attending planning meetings regularly.
In Fall 2015, Andrea Liggett and Pastor Sara Wolbrecht of Salt House, a Lutheran Congregation in Kirkland, Washington recognized the potential to convert the lower level of Salt House Church into a family day center. Salt House representatives joined the planning committee. The Salt House congregation generously agreed to provide the facility rent-free. Catholic Community Services, represented by Bill Hallerman, who had been engaged with the project from the start, became the project’s fiscal agent. The planning group named the facility the “New Bethlehem Day Center”.
Holy Family Parish and St Louise Parish approached their congregations in January and February 2016. The results were amazing. By July 2016, approximately $475,000 of the $550,000 budget was contributed by generous individual donors. Gary Nash, Architects provided pro bono architectural services. Remodeling plans began in earnest. The NBP became a shelter program of Catholic Community Services of Western Washington.
Remodeling commenced in Summer 2016, and the day center opened in November. The center is fully funded for a year and the NBP will also fund the extended operation of the overnight emergency shelter from May - October 2017.