BY JONI TAKANIKOS
January 20, 2016
Sometimes the past knocks on the door of your present moment and demands attention.
The memory that marched up the walk and knocked loudly on my door was from January, 2007. That was the year I was fortunate to be selected to be part of the WICA Local Artist Series.
I had proposed a multi-media event that seemed like a great idea at the time. But when I found out I had been awarded an evening to pull off this extravaganza, I was not at all sure I could do it. I knew I wanted visual artists involved as well as musicians and poets. In an early meeting with two of the eventual 14 visual artists, we decided upon the theme of “shelter.”
Shelter turned out to have many layers of meaning and emotion. When I think back on the show, it is like a dream with many levels, and if anyone reading this was a part of that night so long ago, thank you for entering the dream of “A Winter Happening for Shelter. ” The idea of shelter is not limited to four walls and a roof. In the end, the show was all about love. It’s what we are made of beneath all of the other rubble.
WICA generously gives free rental of their space for the evening, but to produce a show still requires significant funds. I was fortunate to have underwriting from a patron to cover the other costs of the evening. Thanks to that generous patron and a sold-out performance, we generated a healthy donation to the Family Resource Center. Because there was no local homeless shelter at the time, the Family Resource Center seemed the best conduit to get funds to families in need. I remember someone from the FRC who told me of a family asking for help to pay for their campground fees, so they could afford to stay in the park. This was in the winter and I thought of that family and so many others forced to take shelter in the cold.
Besides the issue of homelessness on our island and elsewhere, I was also interested in shining a light on the commerce behind rental properties. It is well known that rental costs can rise dramatically in certain areas. Homeowners with a mortgage of $1000 might be able to charge $2000 to rent their property.
When it comes to the commerce of shelter, it would be beneficial to find a way to profit without driving away working families and single income workers. I know there are those who do charge less than the market will allow so that they can provide affordable housing. I applaud them and wish there was more encouragement in our society to do this more often.
Here on Whidbey Island we are still grappling with increasing homelessness, as well as a scarcity of rental properties. Many property owners have decided to rent to vacationers only; this is very lucrative but further lessens availability of rentals for families. If you are fortunate to have rental property on our fair isle or elsewhere, you might consider that you can profit by helping someone find affordable shelter.
I admit to having high hopes that we can offer shelter to those in need and we are getting closer to that ideal since 2007. Lori Cavender officially founded Ryan’s House as a non-profit in 2010 but had already been working for 10 years to provide resources for homeless youth on Whidbey. Today Ryan’s House is in the home stretch of a major campaign that would afford them the capability of a full time shelter in Coupeville. To donate or find out more about this heartful organization, visit ryanshouseforyouth.org or call Lori Cavender at 206-356-2405
The South Whidbey Homeless Coalition was founded in 2014 and, in 2015, this dynamic and diverse group of concerned citizens opened the House of Hope as temporary transitional housing for families in need.
They have plans for a Hope Village that will provide permanent housing/tiny homes to serve the chronically homeless. They have also partnered with the Langley Methodist Church in Langley and have opened a Warming Center in the Fellowship Hall at the church. It is open from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., but only when temperatures drop below 35 degrees. Their hotline is 360-221-5848.
The Warming Center is staffed by volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering or donating, please contact southwhidbeycoalition.org or call the hotline.
I recently spoke with Joanne Pelant, who is Island County’s housing resources coordinator. County and federal laws mandate that a “point in time” count of the island’s homeless population be done on a randomly selected day yearly. Although the count is mandated, there are no specific funds attached to the count. Island County is seeking 100 volunteers for the count and offers training the week prior. This year the count will be on Jan 28. For more information or to volunteer, please contact Joanne Pelant at 360-678-7962
I confessed to Joanne during our conversation that if I were to ever win the lottery, I would like to build a shelter that is always open—a place with an eye toward beauty that is comforting to the body and soul. I envision a beautiful and comforting environment for those seeking shelter. Joanne said she has a similar vision. Well, sometimes we begin to create change by “dreaming a better dream” and the more of us engaged in the dream, the better.
As I write this from a warm and cozy house I pray that all beings find shelter and love.
Joni Takanikos teaches yoga at Half Moon Yoga Studio in Langley. The theme of shelter is still unwinding in her heart and soul.
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