New Renton veteran housing will provide apartments for 100 homeless
By CELESTE GRACEY
Renton Reporter Staff Writer
October 7, 2010 · Updated 2:38 PM
A hundred more people will find a home and a warm bed this month in downtown Renton.
The Compass Veterans Center plans to open its doors next week to 58 veterans and their families, who are now homeless.
“We felt that there really was a need,” said Denise Missak, the Renton director. “Veterans are very vulnerable when they come back (from military service).”
The 65,000-square-foot building on South Second Street overlooks Renton High School. It came together under the guidance of the Compass Housing Alliance and took millions of dollars in support from county, state and federal agencies.
“It’s definitely been a long development process to get to this point,” said Compass Alliance Director MJ Kiser.
Twenty of the units were designed with two and three bedrooms for families. About 30 of the new tenants are children.
“I can’t wait for them to move in,” said Angel Berry, the program’s family advocate.
Several offices for social workers and advocates were intermixed with the apartments. A community room and computer lab create places for tenants to mix and build friendships.
Each of the homes are equipped with new appliances, furniture, bedding and even pictures for the walls.
“They can walk in with just what’s on their back and still have a fully functioning living apartment,” Missak said. “Everything is brand new.”
Community groups have pitched in, adopting apartments to furnish with linens and cookware.
The Compass Center isn’t a homeless shelter, it’s a home, Missak said.
The single veterans are separated from the families with a locked door on each floor, although there is a shared lobby and community room.
A brightly colored children’s room and teen center opens up onto a large second-floor deck that will soon have a play structure.
Inside, green chairs are tucked beneath craft tables, and new books are scarcely scattered across plenty of shelves.
The top three of the four floors are dedicated to the veterans, and the bottom floor can host two businesses.
Renton Lutheran Church, which had dwindling attendance, gave its church to build the facility. In exchange, it received one of the two spaces for a cafe.
“At some point they decided they needed to envision a future other than what they had,” Kiser said of the decision to close the church in 2006.
St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church agreed to run the cafe, naming it Luther’s Table.
The Renton Technical College planned on using the second space but backed out because of steep budget cuts this year.
The college would have been able to serve veterans, and the center plans to replace it with something that would fit just as well, Kiser said. “Now we’re trying to look for tenants that have a community presence.”
Finding residents was much easier.
While all the spots in the complex have been filled, the center plans to roll move-in dates over a month-long period.
Tenants who apply must be veterans and they must be homeless. They give 30 percent of their income as rent money.
While the apartments will be a permanent solution for some, for others, it’s a chance to get on their feet, Missak said. “It’s about providing a place where they feel empowered and can step out and be successful with their lives.”Contact Renton Reporter Staff Writer Celeste Gracey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-255-3484, ext. 5052.