One Church’s innovative effort to support housing

Last fall, a few members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Port Townsend attended a community showing of the Housing Solutions Network video, “Cultivating Community Solutions to the Housing Crisis.” As they headed to the parking lot after the evening’s discussion, they were inspired to bring the message to more members of their parish.

Led by Joanne Rittmueller, along with Dale Nienow, Barney Truman, and Rebecca Brown-Nienow, they met with the Reverend Dianne Andrews to develop ideas. Soon after, in early 2020, they arranged a showing of the HSN video at church, followed by two facilitated conversations.

Out of this experience, another idea emerged. The church season of Lent was approaching. Lent is a time of contemplation and preparation for Easter. St. Paul’s has a tradition of making “mite boxes” for members to take home. Each day people read a brief thought for the day and put coins into their mite box in gratitude. The Church donates the collection to an area non-profit at Easter.

The group decided to focus this year’s mite box program to help with HSN’s efforts to support affordable housing. They created a calendar with daily thoughts oriented to housing, to create more awareness. For example, one day’s entry was:

“Housing costs have risen 49% in the last 3 years in Port Townsend. Put a dime in the mite box for each person you know who wants to buy a home in Port Townsend, but cannot afford to.”

Other entries prompted people with ideas of how they could help.

“Would you consider renting out a room, or a portion of your house with an arrangement of a partial trade of work for rent? Your gift is your consideration of this idea.”

Normally the mite box program raises around $700. This year St. Paul’s contributed over $1400 to Bayside Housing and Services, which provides temporary housing to low-income individuals and families facing homelessness along with supportive services to help their clients find permanent housing.

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