When asked to imagine what people experiencing homelessness feel, a group of Girl Scout troops described it as sad and depressing, unsafe and scary. Then they were asked why homelessness would make someone feel sad.
“They would be sad because sometimes people would just pass them and not even help them,” one scout said.
“You’re going to make me cry, that was so sweet,” Vision House Development Manager Venetia Vango said to her. “What you’re doing today is stopping and helping.”
Three Girl Scout troops with fifth, fourth and third graders came to Vision House to give back, Saturday, Nov. 9. Troops 46754, 41126 and 41170 quickly worked to make 400 sack lunches for people experiencing homelessness living in Seattle, which were then donated to Union Gospel Mission Search and Rescue for their Sunday food drop off by Vision House.
Vango explained what the organization does, and helped the kids understand how homelessness impacts people. Then the troops did a team-building exercise, listened to a children’s book about homelessness and took a tour of the resident store before making the lunches.
Vision House is a faith-based nonprofit with the goal of keeping families experiencing homelessness together, with a headquarters in Renton. The nonprofit owns and operates 36 units of debt-free housing and two child care facilities in Shoreline and Renton.
Kids Serve, the name of the event, started three years ago as a way for families to bring children to volunteer without being in direct contact with the residents, many of which are recovering from trauma. Renton Volunteer Coordinator Debbie Gannon helped start the kid-friendly volunteer events.
Gannon read the scouts a children’s book called “Our Wish,” that details a rabbit and her seven children becoming homeless, meeting others experiencing homelessness in a shelter and eventually finding a new home. After the book. Gannon said the story reminded her of a family they had with almost as many children, that were going to have to be split apart to have shelter at another organization, before Vision House found a way to make them fit in a Vision House unit.
Girl Scouts received a tour of the resident store, where Vision House pulls donated items from it’s thrift store a couple miles away that would suit the families. Twice a month residents get to shop for supplies for free, with an item limit depending on how many are in their family. The store also includes unused bedding and supplies for new families to help them get comfortable in the new place.
“This was eye opening for me, too,” one of the scout troop parents said on the tour.
At the Renton child care facility, 30 percent of attendees are low-income and the rest pay full tuition. Right now Vision House serves approximately 160 people each year in their 35 units, with the average family at about three members. Families spend from six months to two years in the residence. The nonprofit has about a 90 percent success rate in moving families to long-term housing.
Vision House will also hold an event on Giving Tuesday to help families learn more about homelessness and create soup jars that will be in the resident store, the project of Vision House Volunteer Chloe from Gibson Ek High School in Issaquah.