Sunrise Outreach Center of Yakima now welcomes the Camp Hope program through Transform Yakima Together’s merger into Sunrise Outreach, effective January 1, 2019.
Camp Hope is a low-barrier emergency homeless shelter for men, women, and families experiencing homelessness that began in March 2017 at which time the Yakima Valley Council of Governments (YVCOG) awarded a grant to open Camp Hope in response to the critical need expressed by city and county officials to alleviate the challenges of homelessness in downtown Yakima and the greater Yakima Valley.
Yakima, like many cities in our nation, had been experiencing a marked increase in individuals experiencing homelessness and an unsupervised tent encampment had cropped up downtown in an abandoned lot near homes and local businesses. The city and county needed help addressing this issue and asked Transform Yakima Together, an organization focused on bringing churches together to share God’s love to our community, to set up and operate the camp.
Camp Hope began as an outdoor, barracks-style encampment for approximately 45 adults with 24-hour security, 3 meals a day brought in by volunteers, a shower trailer, and an education center to teach life skills, literacy, and GED classes.
Perhaps the most important component of Camp Hope’s success is the sense of community and family cultivated by the guests, staff, and volunteers. This is vital to providing the safety, support, and atmosphere of hope so necessary in facing life’s challenges and moving forward.
Camp Hope spent winter 2017 in a warehouse on Englewood Avenue and housed an average of over 100 people per night. After many months of negotiations with city and county officials and a looming deadline to vacate the rented warehouse, Camp Hope moved back to its original campsite at the end of June 2018.
After operating since June 2018 without running water, sewer access and adequate electricity, Camp Hope will soon have working utilities. With county funding, electrical installation began late October and was completed December 4, 2018, with expected water/sewer installation by the end of December. These utilities will greatly improve the quality of life for Camp Hope guests. Most importantly, they will allow staff and volunteers to utilize a new mobile kitchen trailer donated earlier in the year.
The end of December 2018 also marked a merger between Transform Yakima Together and Sunrise Outreach Center. The two organizations had been working together closely since Camp Hope began and decided to join forces at the end of 2018, to maximize organizational strengths and increase capacity. Transform Yakima Together’s staff and programs remain unchanged and are now under the Sunrise Outreach Center banner.
Looking to the Future
The future plans for Camp Hope include remaining on the city-owned property for two years (as a year-round outdoor facility) while a permanent site is built on the adjacent property. Camp Hope currently has capacity for 90 people per night, including up to 10 families. However, more bed space is desperately needed due to rising homelessness. There are known to be over 600 homeless people in Yakima County, and many more that aren’t counted. Approximately 400 live in shelters while the rest live in places not meant for human habitation – under freeway overpasses, in encampments along the Yakima River, or anywhere they can find in buildings, allies, doorways, etc.
In 2017, Camp Hope provided 15,388 bed nights and 33,853 meals to 556 unique individuals. Numbers have almost doubled in 2018.
Homelessness is a community problem that takes a community response. We are so very grateful for the love, generosity, and support of so many in our community since Camp Hope started.
We are pleased to announce that Premera Blue Cross has awarded Camp Hope a one-year grant of $100,000 to be used for behavioral health implementation. We are so grateful to be selected as a recipient of this Premera Social Impact grant and deeply appreciate Premera’s focus on behavioral health and homelessness in Central WA.
This funding will improve access to services and provide increased care management for Camp Hope’s guests.
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