Monday, December 14, 2009

Fran's journey to find a home.

It was her husband's death. A pink slip. Then, a severe illness.

Forces out of Fran McKinzie's control left her without a home at the age of 56.

She called The Sophia Way, the only staffed overnight women's shelter in East King County. The program, just starting its second year, provides a structured path for women to gain overnight shelter, support services and a subsidized apartment until she is ready to be on her own.

The process takes time, and is a journey for its participants.

Wrapped in a wool blanket, Fran McKinzie, 56, rests while on the bench outside The Sophia Way overnight shelter at the Bellevue First Congregational Church. Between the few hours when the day center closes, and the overnight shelter opens, McKinzie sometimes waits for hours in cold, trying to keep warm.

Fran McKinzie, 56, holds a blanket given to her by a loved one inside her temporary room at a home for women provided by The Sophia Way. The program briefly placed McKinzie into a room of her own to help her recover from a serious illness.

Fran McKinzie felt mixed feelings returning to the overnight shelter, although there are plans to soon place her into an apartment of her own.

A room of Fran's own provided her with privacy, something she desired, even if it was only temporary.

Fran McKinzie touches her swollen ankle inside her temporary room at The Sophia Way house for women. Along with multiple illnesses, Fran sprained her ankle and needed a walker to transport herself around the house and Bellevue.

Fran McKinzie walks onto the porch of one of The Sophia Way homes for women, where she stayed in for a few weeks recuperating.

The Sophia Way model provides opportunities for homeless women to make sustainable changes for their future. The women in the program come from a variety of backgrounds— widows, domestic violence victims, those with illness and the working poor.

Fran McKinzie rests while on the bench outside of The Sophia Way overnight shelter at the Bellevue First Congregational Church.

The Sophia Way overnight shelter is based in the heart of downtown Bellevue. Located across Lake Washington from Seattle, Bellevue is known for it's wealth and business sector.

Fran McKinzie pushes her walker near the Symetra Financial Center, located across from The Sophia Way in downtown Bellevue.

Fran McKinzie visits the Symetra Financial Center when she needs to warm up, use the restroom or find a smoke. Fran said spending time in the building, sometimes watching a little television in the lobby, feels luxurious.

Exhausted after a long day, Fran McKinzie, rests in the lobby of the Symetra Financial Center. McKinzie sometimes visits the building, and sits in the lobby to warm up from the cold. Wanting to respect the occupants of the building, she tries to not stay for too long.

Inside the Bellevue First Congregational Church, Reghann Redlin, with Seven salon, styles Karen Paige-Dash’s hair during The Sophia Way hair and fashion night. Three stylists from the salon volunteered their time and talent to provide The Sophia Way women with new hairdos. Fran asked for a Christmas tree to be shaved in the back of her head.

The women at the overnight shelter keep some of their belongings in lockers.

Fran McKinzie carries down her mattress before going to bed at The Sophia Way overnight shelter in downtown Bellevue. Before coming to The Sophia Way, Fran stayed with friends and family members.

Fran McKinzie prepares for bed at The Sophia Way overnight shelter in downtown Bellevue. The shelter serves eight women at a time so each woman has personalized attention.

Fran McKinzie, 56, wraps herself in blankets before going to sleep at The Sophia Way overnight shelter. The Sophia Way is the only staffed overnight shelter in the Bellevue and East King County area that provides for single adult women. Fran said she looks forward to one day having an apartment of her own.

Click here to read Nicole Tsong's article about The Sophia Way for The Seattle Times.
All images copyright Erika Schultz or The Seattle Times