Monroe's Take the Next Step (TTNS, 202 S. Sams St.) celebrated the sunshine last week with a community-wide barbecue on Tuesday, June 23.
TTNS is a nonprofit agency dedicated to assisting homeless and low-income families in the Monroe area. The agency's mission is to offer "friendship, help and hope to our neighbors in need,GÇ¥ which they seek to do via a variety of targeted programs. TTNS staff and volunteers have worked to create an all-inclusive community available to those that need them the most.-á -á
Guests last Tuesday enjoyed barbecued hamburgers with all the trimmings, dessert, beverages and coffee. Free community dinners at TTNS are held from 6 to 6:45 p.m. every Tuesday; all are welcome to attend. After dinner, free life skills classes are offered on a variety of different topics, with free child care available.
Attendance fluctuates from week to week.
Community Outreach Specialist Sarah Lunstrum gave a brief overview of the different TTNS programs during the dinner, including the Growing Together program for young moms, the community drop-in resource center, the cold-weather shelter and Kidz Club.-á -á
Kidz Club takes place from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons during the school year. Kids receive a healthy snack and help with reading, math and other homework if they have any. They are also taught life skills and given the opportunity to interact with volunteers by playing games or talking.
"If you attend a high-poverty school and live in a high-poverty area, you're seven times more likely to drop out of school,GÇ¥ Lunstrum said. "So Kidz Club is really important.GÇ¥
The faith-based organization also works to teach kids about Jesus as a way of promoting kindness and values.
During the summer, TTNS organizes different recreational activities to take the place of the regular Kidz Club programming. Kids will go hiking and visit places like the Monroe YMCA, the Woodland Park Zoo, Monroe's Jump, Rattle and Roll recreational center, Sky River Park and more.
The goal at TTNS is to help low-income and homeless community members transition out of hardship by taking the next steps necessary to improve their lives.
Shane Collins has been going to TTNS for approximately a year. Originally from Oklahoma, the 23-year-old backpacked from Oklahoma to Kent, eventually ending up in Federal Way. While there, he fell upon hard times and got involved with drugs. Once he started trying to get clean, he found it difficult to remain in an area where everyone he knew was associated with drugs.
"I'm a recovering drug addict and everybody in Federal Way knew me as a drug addict,GÇ¥ Collins said. "I couldn't get a job to save my life, and so I came out here.GÇ¥
Collins said that being homeless is challenging and admitted that he has frequently spent time in the Snohomish County Jail for offenses like trespassing and panhandling. He is hopeful that he will eventually be able to become gainfully employed and get back on his feet.
Resources like the drop-in center are available to people like Collins. TTNS works with its guests to provide access to health and wellness services, counseling, hygiene items and more. The drop-in center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and provides Internet access to those applying for jobs, seeking additional resources or working on homework.
Every Monday, TTNS facilitates a class called Living Free, which is aimed to help people reach their full potential. Living Free group sessions are held at 4 p.m. every Monday and are free to attend. -á -á
"You can come, get back to your true self and, in doing so, kick strongholds or anything that's holding you back,GÇ¥ Lunstrum said. -á -á
The organization is sustained via donations, which can be made directly to TTNS and also through programs like Amazon Smile and the Fred Meyer Community Rewards program. Ninety-three cents out of every dollar donated to TTNS goes straight back into its programming.-á
For more information on TTNS, visit www.ttns.org.