The Sophia Way: A Place of Hope and Change for Unhoused Women
September 24, 2021 - by Sandy Vo
The Sophia Way:
A Place of Hope and Change for Unhoused Women
The Sophia Way story begins in 2006. A woman walked into a church in Redmond and asked, “Where can I sleep tonight?” There was no answer, but her question led the church to form the services and programs that would eventually become The Sophia Way. Chief Executive Officer Alisa Chatinsky said there wasn’t a single resource for women experiencing homelessness on the Eastside 14 years ago.
“Our organization literally started with eight mats on the floor of a church,” she said. “Since then, we have been lucky enough to grow substantially.”
“Today, our organization is based on three pillars: shelter, safety and stability,” Chatinsky said. “The first step is getting somebody into the shelter and making sure they’re clean and warm. Once in the shelter, they begin to feel safe. After building a stable relationship with these women, we can finally head them onto a road of stability, finding a place they can call home.”
The Sophia Way provides many different resources to women on the Eastside. Case managers support them with overall wellbeing, including housing, developing a plan for debt, medical needs and more. Case management work empowers women with skills and resources to live a life of their choice.
“In just the last year, we were able to help 538 women,” Chatinsky said. “These are well-educated people, and they’ve had successful lives but something in their life went wrong. We’ve had women as old as 87 come shuffling in with all their belongings. That’s just wrong.”
The organization currently operates two shelters, one in Downtown Bellevue and their newest location in Kirkland. Because of COVID-19, they needed to move to a 24/7 model with additional support. With help from the community, The Sophia Way was able to stay open. Chatinsky exclaimed that without the help, they would not have survived. Local support came from many in Bellevue, including the City of Bellevue, Symetra, Salesforce, Amazon and Google, as well as small businesses and individual donations - many with a corporate match.
“The pandemic has caused our expenses to go up significantly. Our top priority is keeping these women safe and healthy,” Chatinsky said. “The outpour of support from the community has been astronomical. I still get choked up when I talk about it.”
According to Chatinsky, the shelters are a starting point for people to get their basic needs met and to connect with resources. In the next few years, she hopes to increase housing in the community, create more permanent supportive housing and to implement a robust mental health program to help homeless women get the support they need.
“My vision is for everybody to have a place to live," said Chatinksy. "Wouldn’t that be nice?"
There are many ways to help the women who experience homelessness on the Eastside including giving financially, donating meals or needed items and volunteering. More information can be found on their website.
This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.
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The Sophia Way
11061 NE 2nd St
Bellevue, WA 98004