Two hundred twenty unique Shoreline families and individuals were helped with rent and utilities in 2022. Most of these received $325 on average and a $125 Safeway card. This represents a tripling of the amount we have been able to give in prior years. It is also a doubling of the number of people we were able to help. New funding from a City of Shoreline grant, together with continued support form churches and individuals made it possible. 2021 and 2022 had a devastating impact on all Shoreline residents but the most hard hit were people with low income. Black and Latinx families and individuals Also hardest hit were single parent families with young children, and people young and old with physical and mental disabilities. It seemed at the time the needs were so overwhelming that our funds were inadequate to meet them. We needed to remember that our mission is to show people that God loves them and cares what happens to them and we are here to offer hope and prayer so that they won’t be overcome. Many came to us owing thousands of dollars in back rent and utility bills. Some maxed out credit cards and that made things worse.
In 2021 we received a grant of $25,000 from the Seattle Foundation. We used that money to increase the support given to 150 Shoreline families to an average of $350. This kept families from being evicted and kept utilities on. We also distributed grocery cards to Shoreline families to help with food and gasoline.
At the end of 2021 Shoreline Community Care was invited by the City of Shoreline into a partnership based on a common good. Both the City and the Churches in our City want to help people in very hard circumstances. The City of Shoreline saw this partnership as a way of maximizing funds being used to help people. Shoreline Community Care has a very small administrative cost. We pay no salaries and no rent. So a phone, insurance, postage and license fees all come to less than 1% of the money we receive. 99% of all funds went to help our Shoreline families and individuals. The fact that we are all volunteers is not lost on the City and the wider community. Being all volunteer has a downside. Most people work. We see our clients during the day. It means that most of our team are retired older folks who don’t have to work. It has been difficult t recruit younger people or those with lived experience that matches the lived experience and demographics of our clients.
Shoreline Community Care is a Christian ministry funded for the prior 21 years by churches and individuals who believe that Jesus calls us to care for the poor in our community. This had some people concerned about using public funds for religious purposes. Likewise some of our team were concerned that the City would insist that we not share our faith or ask people if they wanted prayer.
Both concerns have turned out to be unfounded. The City of Shoreline made as a condition of their financing that all interviews include questions on the race and ethnicity of the recipient, the disability status, the number of individuals in the household, the family income and if the need for assistance was based on having covid. The data is aggregated for the entire term of the grant and is thus anonymously reported. See demographic data attached. Likewise all financial grant recipient data is listed only by initials.
The City has only required the recipients are either unhoused or reside in Shoreline. On residency issue, we have occasionally helped individuals outside of Shoreline. We do not use City of Shoreline funds for that financial assistance. This is where donations from churches and individuals allow us some flexibility. Shoreline Community Care focusing on residents of Shoreline the benefit of our team being familiar with most of the resources in our City. Further most of the landlords and utility providers know and trust us. SCC for its entire history has had a policy of non discrimination with respect to race, gender, disability, religion or sexual orientation. We have never refused to help a Shoreline resident based on any of those categories. The only criteria we have used to disqualify financial help are: 1 the client lives outside of the Shoreline boundary 2 it is less than six months since we helped them. 3 the family income is too high. 4 the landlord has refused our check or told us they would do so. Occasionally the interviewer will stipulate that our financial assistance was conditioned on getting the other required funds, such as for a move in deposit.
What are the outcomes? We have in our understanding of God’s call for Shoreline, that we would offer a cup of cold water to all who are thirsty. This is an expression of Jesus love and our love for the client. The concept of agape’ giving without expectation of getting anything in return describes Jesus’ love. Yet we ask a lot of very personal questions during our interview of clients. We ask about all sources of income including salary and public assistance. We ask about all expenses including money for paying off credit card debt. Sometimes the client has made bad choices such as credit card debt. We encourage but do not insist that they pay off credit card debt. We ask how did the client end up needing our help? What happened. Some of the circumstances are hard to hear. Domestic violence, illness, disability and criminal justice are some of the causes. Some clients acknowledge addictions that have led to their predicament. We ask, What could you do to reduce expenses or increase income?
Some clients hit a period of unemployment or illness and require our financial assistance just one time. Others are coming back every six months because their circumstances haven’t changed (about 15% over two years). They could not afford to provide for their basic needs. Recently we started asking clients what could they do to increase their connection to community, for example community dinners, library. volunteer in the schools, Shoreline Senior Center, YMCA, volunteer, church and recovery programs? It turns out that people with more connections to the community are less likely to experience long term financial hardship.
We have been able to do follow up with the clients we have helped. Before that the only way to measure successful outcomes is if we never heard from the client again. It is better to get back with the client and ask things like did we prevent eviction, or prevent utility shut off? Did the client follow any agreed upon suggestions such as attend a church or recovery group. Did they find a better job ore change their budget? We are still trying to classify the outcomes from our follow up interviews. Of the 87 follow up interviews almost all the clients we contacted were able to prevent eviction or keep the utilities on. Other results indicate most but not all were in about the same situation.
We have started asking clients who are able to do so to fill out a google form prior to the interview. This has enabled more accurate data as phone connections and communication with difficult to understand speech can make accurate data more problematic. We have received an additional grant of $50,000 from the City of Shoreline for 2023 as well as ongoing support from local churches and individuals. Our greatest need is more interview staff, a redesign of our 11 year old database, and filing our IRS 990 EZ form which we have not had to do for many years since we were under the income limits. We are distributing bus tickets to clients who need them. We have just given out the last of the$35,000 Safeway gift cards to our clients.
Shoreline Community Care team is grateful for the support from our churches, our community, our Shoreline City Government, schools, businesses and individuals. Participating churches: Berean Bible Church, Bethel Lutheran Church, Hillwood Church, Northwest Church, Shoreline Christian Reformed Church and Trinity Presbyterian Church.