YWCA opens campus near Issaquah for homeless parents
July 8, 2011
By Laura Geggel
NEW — 11 a.m. July 8, 2011
Cynthia Liggitt is a single mother, the former wife of a minister and a former inmate at the Washington Corrections Center for Women.
“It still pains me to say that, but I’m learning to tell the truth about my life so that I don’t go down that wrong route again, and I hope that my story might help others,” said Liggitt, who was charged with felony theft and forgery and served 4.5 years in prison.
With the help of YWCA’s Passage Point program, Liggitt has finished her incarceration, earned a degree and received parenting classes and counseling that have helped both her and her 2-year-old daughter, Jayden Wyrick.
Liggitt and local dignitaries, including King County Executive Dow Constantine, spoke at the grand opening of Passage Point in Maple Valley on Thursday.
Located next to the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill, the six buildings have 46 housing units for men and women recently released from incarceration who wish to reunite with their children. The residents of Passage Point will have access to housing, employment and counseling services.
Residents must also be homeless at the time of intake. Violent offenders or people convicted of crimes against children will not be allowed to stay at Passage Point.
The facility is already in high demand.
Tiffany Bradley, from Tacoma, was incarcerated after being charged with 19 counts of identity theft. She was also addicted to methamphetamine, she said.
In October, “I’ll be two years clean,” she said.
Bradley is completing her work release program at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, and she will exit the system in October. She finished her screening for Passage Point on Wednesday, and attended the grand opening with her case manager so she could see the campus.
If accepted, “it would be a lot to me,” Bradley said. “I have four kids and they’re all going to come back home to me, and I don’t have a place to go.”
She said she hopes to get stay in one of Passage Point’s dormlike buildings.
The residences have sitting rooms connected to kitchens and bedrooms, some with bunk beds.
Various benefactors, including Evergreen Community Church, Seattle-based HomeStreet Bank and Maple Hills residents donated supplies, such as pans and utensils, shower curtains and laundry baskets to the future residents of Passage Point. Quilts from the Heart donated about 100 handmade quilts, enough for each parent and child.
Passage Point “sounds like a marvelous program,” said quilter Laila Adams, a Seattle resident. “I’m a retired educator, and I know all to well the problems children have in school. People who don’t have the traditional family and support network have to develop a new one. Any boost we can give them is good.”
The grand opening
Leaders from the YWCA, King County and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spoke at the opening ceremony before more than 130 guests toured the Passage Point campus of apartments, classrooms, offices and meeting halls.
Evergreen Community Church Pastor Don Burnett thanked all involved, including “the residents and their children who will become a community in this context, many experiencing fear and apprehension as they leave incarceration and embrace freedom.”
Passage Point fills a need for homeless parents leaving correctional facilities, Constantine said.
“In a county named in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., equity and social justice must be at the core of our vision for our county’s future,” he said, adding, “We wanted to create a program that would support both the parents and the children, and help the family together to succeed.”
Residents can stay at Passage Point for up to three years. The first Passage Point residents are expected to arrive Aug. 1, YWCA spokeswoman Gestin Suttle said.
The YWCA hopes to decrease recidivism, or former inmates re-entering the corrections system, YWCA Homeless Initiatives Director Linda Rasmussen said.
In 2007, the state’s rate of recidivism was high, with 53 percent of women and 65 percent of men returning to prison. For people in the Passage Point program, which was scattered throughout King County before the grand opening of the Passage Point campus, the recidivism rate was 22 percent for men and women, Rasmussen said.
Kathy Lewis, of the county Veterans Levy Citizens Oversight Board, urged voters to pass the veterans-and-human-services levy, King County Proposition 1, because the levy helps pay for programs, such as Passage Point.
Homeowners pay 5 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value, with a house assessed at $340,000 paying $17 per year.
The levy has already paid for about $2.5 million in services to Passage Point.
The past and the future
The facility has been a long time in the making.
The former Cedar Hills Alcohol Treatment Center on the site closed in 2002 when the county ran out of money to run the facility.
When the county awarded the YWCA the bid to run the newly proposed Passage Point, some community members formed the Cedar Hills Rural Preservation Alliance, saying that the county didn’t have the right permits to operate the center.
Though the alliance won a lawsuit against the county in the Snohomish County Superior Court, it was unable to afford another lawsuit when the county appealed the decision. The two settled out of court in 2010, and many of the alliance members serve on the Passage Point Community Advisory Committee, which has helped create the facility’s management plan.
As of Thursday, Passage Point has a rough draft of the management plan, but has yet to finalize it. The plan is a living document, and can be modified to better serve Passage Point in the future, Rasmussen said.
Rod Case, a community advisory committee member, attended the grand opening.
“It’s nice to see it happen,” he said. “There’s been a lot of trials and tribulations throughout the years.”