A woman walked into a church in Redmond and asked, “Where can I sleep tonight?”
There was no answer, but her question awakened the people in the church to the reality of a critical service gap and the need to serve a growing population of unhoused women. Helen Leuzzi (our late founder), a philanthropist and ardent women’s advocate, led this effort with a vision that quickly inspired new partnerships.
The first step in this journey was the Angeline’s Day Center, a partnership between Bellevue First Congregational Church [BFCC] and YWCA that opened in 2006. The center provided respite to women from 9 AM to 3 PM on weekdays. While this service represented a big step forward to serve women experiencing homelessness on the Eastside, the staff was unwilling to be satisfied with the reality of turning the women out, daily, to sleep on the streets.
In the summer of 2008, BFCC began a series of community meetings to determine what more could be done to serve women experiencing homelessness in East King County. A new organization, Sophia Way, began taking shape. A fledgling board of directors sought out Eastside Interfaith Social Concerns Council (EISCC) to serve as the fiscal sponsor, allowing the board to start fundraising in earnest. Two individual BFCC parishioners donated the seed money needed to begin the new program.
On December 8, 2008, The Sophia Way opened its doors (two years from the date of the Angeline Day Center’s opening) with eight mats on the floor of BFCC.
Four years later, in November 2012, The Sophia Way moved the shelter to the basement of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Bellevue, calling it Sophia’s Place. This move improved the available facilities, increasing capacity to 21 women each night, and the organization continued the relationship with Angeline’s Day Center.
In December 2012, The Sophia Way became an independent 501(c)(3) organization.
2008 The Sophia Way opens its doors to women. The overnight shelter is housed at Bellevue First Congregational Church and offers a safe place to sleep and a hot meal.
2012 Sophia’s Place begins operations in the newly renovated basement of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Bellevue, providing 21 women with a personal cubicle and stability for six months. The Sophia Way is an independent 501(c)(3) organization.
2013 Emergency Shelter services are offered for the night during winter months (October to May).
2014 The Sophia Way takes over the day center services at Sophia’s Place, Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm. (Earlier, YWCA operated the day center, called Angeline’s Day Center). In 2016, the hours were extended to 3 pm.
2016 The Sophia Way starts participating in King County’s “Coordinated Entry for All” initiative and adopts the Housing First Approach.
2017 A Street Outreach Program is initiated. Day Center hours are extended to weekends.
2020 Helen’s Place opens in August. A part of The Kirkland Place for Families & Women, the $10M public/private partnership offers services by Catholic Community Services (for families) and The Sophia Way (for women).
I lost my job due to an ongoing struggle with depression and became homeless. I also had significant debts. At Sophia's Place, my case manager helped me apply for and get a full-time job. She also supported me in making arrangements to pay my debts. After three months, I got a room at Holly House (transitional housing), which is helping me feel more stable. My focus is now on improving my mental health through therapy and self-care, and saving money so that I can rent my pwn apartment. I know that some day I will get there. - Cassandra