Mercy House opens its new home to the community

Father Cal Christiansen and Archbishop Paul Etienne conduct a prayer for the opening of Mercy House.

On Wednesday, Nov. 29, Mercy House officially opened its doors in Mountlake Terrace after years of providing virtual services to the community.

The halls of Mercy House were packed with community members, parishioners, and volunteers for last-minute preparations for the blessing and dedication ceremony by Seattle Diocese Archbishop Paul Etienne and Father Cal Christiansen of Mountlake Terrace’s St. Pius X. Mercy House Strategic Planning Committee member Don Osborne squeezed around the people during the tour.

“Hard to believe this all started with working out of cardboard boxes and garages,” Osborne said over the crowd.

What was run through a virtual office now manifests in the real world with crisp white walls and tile floors. The offices have windows facing the hallway, with natural light coming through a skylight into the foyer.

Father Cal Christiansen of St. Pius X Catholic Church admires the organized layout of Mercy House’s new home.

It had been seven years since Christiansen and the St. Pius X Pastoral Council were inspired to start Mercy House during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy declared by Pope Francis in 2015 and 2016.

A joint project between St. Pius X, St. Vincent de Paul and the Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, Mercy House provides service to all, regardless of faith.

Plans were drawn for the remodel, but preparations were stalled when pandemic restrictions were implemented in 2020. The board of Mercy House realized that the community’s needs were growing because of COVID-19. Neither Mercy House nor those in need could wait for construction to finish.

Like many crucial services, the volunteers got to work and improvised ways of helping the community. The PREPARES program, which supports mothers and families, used a meeting room to serve as their center and to store baby supplies.

The remodeled building included easy access to the PREPARES and St. Vincent de Paul storage rooms.

St. Vincent de Paul volunteers focused on assisting people with emergency food, rent and utility assistance and emergency motel stays from an enclosed carport warmed by a space heater on an extension cord.

Now, PREPARES and St. Vincent de Paul have a dedicated building with heat and storage. When remodeling the building, the programs’ rooms were placed next to the parking lot with doors that opened to the outside for easier delivery and distribution.

Osborne explained that the food store is not a food bank but an emergency supply for those in dire need. The items are non-perishable, which helps Mercy House keep a supply on hand and deliver the supplies quickly.

Archbishop Paul Etienne (left) listens to St. Pius X’s parish administrator and Mercy House councilmember Aimee Do (right) explain how Mercy House is staffed to reduce costs, with volunteers being the heart of the program.

Though vacant now, an office is dedicated to a trained professional community resource navigator. Though the details are still being finalized with the YWCA, the resource navigator will be onsite twice a week. They can identify the person’s needs and help the unhoused with the HMIS database to find employment.

Further, the navigator can assist individuals and families in finding resources to get needed help through PREPARES, St. Vincent de Paul or professional referrals for services such as medical, mental health, recovery, housing and employment assistance.

The site also features a multipurpose room, a washer and dryer and a quiet room that genuinely earns its name. When the door is closed, one can barely hear the crowd of about 30 people outside.

Archbishop Etienne and Father Christiansen offered a prayer and blessed the building that represents the Mountlake Terrace Catholic community’s dedication to helping those in need.

Mercy House is located on 56th Avenue at St. Pius X’s entrance across from the Evergreen playfield. Learn more about Mercy House by clicking here.

— Story and photos by Rick Sinnett

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