Lazarus Day Center responds to homelessness crisis with devotion to service

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Story by Hillary Sanders.

The Lazarus computer lab gives visitors access to software like Microsoft Word and provides an internet connection for clients to engage in housing and job searching, communicating on social media, or just watching a YouTube video to unwind. The computer lab is currently accommodating between 50 and 60 people per week.

As the homelessness crisis peaked in 2016, the Lazarus Day Center in Pioneer Square found itself serving more homeless and marginally-housed people than ever this last year.

“The Laz” as it’s lovingly called, provides a range of services for homeless and marginally housed people aged 50 and over. Those include laundry, showers, meals, counselling, housing case management, activities and classes, and as of this year, a 6-station computer lab.

As plans were being made to clear The Jungle, volunteers from the Laz went to the Seattle City Council and fought hard to get the funds that allowed the center to open earlier and provide more meals and add an additional housing case manager.

The Laz secured housing for 49 people in 2016 and expect that number to go up in 2017. With the help of the Technology Matching Fund, The Lazarus has also been establishing a technology center for its clients.

Prior to the construction of their 6-station computer lab, the Laz did not have computers or internet access for its clients. They now have staff building out classes specifically to help people develop computer skills.

According to Jennifer Newman, the Program Director at St. Martin de Porres Shelter and Lazarus Day Center, these classes cover everything from resume building, learning Word, looking for housing, job searching, and connecting with family on social media.

“We want to expose people to a variety of activities and classes to enrich their lives but also, to build relationships founded on trust and respect. This enables us to engage clients in meaningful housing case management,” Newman says.

Between the additional meals, the new computer lab, classes, and other events, the Lazarus is now strained when it comes to physical space — but Newman says that they’re devoted to continuing to help more and more people regardless.

In 2016 the City of Seattle awarded 10 community organizations a total of $320,000 in Technology Matching Funds (TMF). This funding will assist more than 2,500 residents in historically underserved or underrepresented communities who lack the necessary technology access and essential digital skills to thrive in the 21st century.