“Affordable permanent housing
should be available to everyone.”

One of eight “Insights for the Future,” CCSWW 2008

In 2008, CCSWW (Catholic Community Services of Western Washinton) Futures II planning process anticipated the local impacts of our growing housing crisis and broadened our commitment to provide homes for individuals and families in need. Over the last 15 years, we have increased our permanent housing capacity by 50%. Thanks to the unwavering trust and partnership of public and private funders, we have doubled our pace of construction over the last seven years alone.

This accelerated effort produced more than 1,200 new units across western Washington allocated to low-income farmworkers, veterans, students, displaced minority households, people experiencing chronic homelessness, and other communities of concern.

A First in Skagit County

Martha’s Place Community Room, June 2023: CCS-NW Director Will Rice and local political leaders tell the Governor about homelessness in the Skagit Valley.

“We know that CCS/CHS bring dignity, professionalism, and care to everything you do. We are so happy for the people here!”

– Jill Boudreau, Mayor, City of Mount Vernon

Fr. Paul Magnano, Mayor Boudreau, and County Commissioner Ron Wesen were among the honored guests when Catholic Community Services/Catholic Housing Services welcomed Governor Jay Inslee to a recent tour of Martha’s Place, a brand-new Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) site and the first of its kind in Skagit County. CCS Northwest Director Will Rice credited them and other community leaders with a clear vision and the determination to tackle housing and services for the growing number of people experiencing chronic homelessness in the Valley.

Before the tour began, Rice and the Governor reviewed the worsening housing situation across the state. While Inslee commended the state legislature’s decision to double funding for housing, he observed that Washington is seriously deficient. “We’ve got to build thousands of housing units—tiny homes, congregate housing, PSH, and long-term ownership with equity.”

New Martha’s Place residents share their responses to a simple question posted in their Community Room. 

Rice recalled the Governor’s 2016 visit to CCS/CHS Francis Place in Bellingham, the agency’s first PSH in the Northwest region, stretching from King County to the Canadian border. That visit triggered the resolve of neighboring Skagit Valley leaders to pool their resources to meet the homelessness challenge in their backyard. They collaborated with CHS, persistently building trust, removing barriers, and securing state and local funding. Nonetheless, it still took seven years to realize the vision of Martha’s Place.

A Variety of Housing Solutions across Western Washington

At that time, CHS had just begun a surge in construction designed to house the most vulnerable people in western Washington. From 2015 to 2023, CHS partnerships constructed PSH sites for veterans and others experiencing long-term homelessness in Bellingham, Tacoma, Everett, Lynnwood, Seattle, and Kent; they are in the process of finishing a 100-unit pilot project with King County in Shoreline.

“They [Homeless Outreach Team] asked me if I wanted to see a place, and I said ‘no’ because I did not want to get my hopes up. Then, a week later, they called and said, ‘They have the lease and the keys to your place!’ And you know I just fell apart. All there was, was a bed and a view, and I just felt like I had just won the lotto, you know?

“I felt like I didn’t deserve it, like I wasn’t worthy. He says, ‘This place is yours.’. I’m glad, I’m proud, I’m privileged, and I’m honored even to be here. Francis Place is a safe haven, and I appreciate everybody who had anything to do with me getting in here.”
-Dean, Francis Place Permanent Supportive Housing

During that same interval, CHS has built homes for a range of low-income communities of concern across western Washington, like agricultural workers in Whatcom and Cowlitz Counties and students and households of color in King County. Over the last year, CHS’s valued partnership with FAME-Equity Alliance of Washington has created the Elizabeth Thomas Homes, 119 affordable housing units for income-eligible families displaced by rising rents in Central and South Seattle. 2023 saw the first anniversary of Martina Apartments, a 66-unit project with the Seattle Housing Authority designed for community college students at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Villa San Juan Bautista in Centralia, one of CHS 13 Farmworkers Housing Initiative sites.

“We value Villa Santa Fe greatly. It’s not just  what it represents as a building; it’s also what it represents as a community. This makes it  possible for our family and others to live a dignified life, in a nice place, with really good living conditions. I know that these projects are the work of many hands and many important people who donate and contribute. I only have words of gratitude.”  -Fernando, CHS Farmworker housing, Whatcom County

CCS/CHS is deeply gratified by the confidence we have earned over the years from federal, state and municipal partners as we strive to fulfill our mission. We are equally humbled by the many prayers and gifts from supporters who strengthen our commitment to “bring dignity, professionalism, and care” to everything we do.

Learn more about CCS/CHS housing efforts by visiting our website; you can support our efforts by responding to the 2023 Catholic Housing Services Appeal.  We are happy to answer your questions at mailto:development@ccsww.org; or 206.328.570.

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