Editor's Note: This month, the Herald is featuring a series of stories on the Holiday Wish Lists of Mid-Columbia nonprofits and how you can help. Does your nonprofit have a specific need for items that the community can help provide? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with attention to Holiday Wish List. Please include the name and mission of the nonprofit, contact information and a few specific needs.
Paul Boyus was one of the first people ever to use Ken and Teresa’s Place, a local day center for the homeless.
The Vietnam veteran, now 63, had fallen on hard times, and the center in Kennewick provided a safe, warm place.
Now he’s one of its most faithful volunteers.
“There are a lot of people out on the streets,” Boyus said. “This place is a shelter for them. It keeps them off the streets, keeps them from getting in trouble. They come in here, they congregate, they talk. I mean, it’s all like one little family.
“Basically (that’s) all it is — a family.”
But the center may soon have to close its doors because of financial difficulties — unless the community steps in.
This holiday season, cash donations top the center’s wish list. Officials are hoping for enough help to make it to spring, while they plan fundraisers and work on grants and other solutions.
Ken and Teresa’s Place is needed because “there’s no real place for the homeless to go during the day” in the Tri-Cities, said Steve Gaulke, executive director of Therapeutic Innovations & Recovery, which runs the center. The goal is to help center-goers “create the life worth living” for themselves, he added.
The center opened in 2012 and serves about 40 to 50 people a day. They can take showers, do loads of laundry, pick up toiletries and warm clothing, use the phone or computer and receive help with everything from securing identification to connecting with other social services in the area.
There’s a sitting area with a television and comfortable chairs.
And people ready to lend an ear.
“Sometimes all people want to do is come in and bounce things off you,” said Michael Switzer, who’s interning at the shelter as he completes a bachelor’s degree in social work through Heritage University. “I’ve talked to 10 people already this morning that just came in, wanted to drink a cup of coffee and eat a doughnut and talk about what they needed to accomplish for the day.”
Officials were relying on about $5,000 a month in grant money through the Benton-Franklin human services department. But Gaulke said that money could only be used for clients meeting a narrow definition of homelessness, and the center’s mission involves serving all who come through its doors.
So the board decided it was best to seek other funding.
While the need for financial help is most pressing, the center also could use some material goods, including cups of soup, coffee, paper towels, paper plates, basic hygiene items, laundry soap, bus tickets, coats, hats and caps, gloves, blankets and sleeping bags.
It also needs volunteers to help staff the facility on West Bruneau Place, which is open 6:30 a.m. to noon weekdays.
The center’s hours were cut back amid the financial difficulties, and two part-time case managers were laid off.
Renae Quigley, a board member, said the plight of the homeless in the community comes into sharp relief as the holidays approach and temperatures drop. “But the truth of the matter is, homelessness is year-round” and Ken and Teresa’s Place helps meet a need, she told the Herald.
Boyus said he’d hate to see the center close.
“I just hope we keep it up,” he said. “It’s really, really important in the Tri-Cities.”
Donations to Ken and Teresa’s Place can be made online at www.tinyurl.com/kenandteresasplace or mailed to or dropped off at the center at 2625 W. Bruneau Place, Suite D, Kennewick, WA 99336. For more information, call 509-222-1030.
Therapeutic Innovations & Recovery also is on Facebook.