By Julie Harris
Last week, former board member and original founder of LASA, Doctor Steven Goodwin, returned to his old stomping grounds in Lakewood to learn how LASA has grown in the twenty years since he has left.
LASA is a community supported agency dedicated to the prevention of homelessness in Pierce County. The organization was born out of a collaboration of several local churches that saw a growing need for homeless prevention services. Goodwin, along with several other volunteers from the local churches, was an instrumental figure in LASA’s beginnings. At the time, Goodwin was himself a pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, and he soon became the president of LASA’s board of directors.
It has been two decades since Goodwin served on LASA’s board. The agency has continued to evolve and adapt over the years to meet the current needs of the homeless. Their mission and scope of services has grown; LASA now seeks to prevent recurrent homelessness through the provision of housing assistance and case management services. Yet, since its establishment, LASA has not experienced that same growth in the scope of preventative services they are able to offer. In terms of prevention, LASA provides rental, utility and transportation assistance along with basic needs services. However Pierce County residents continue to demonstrate a need for additional supportive services.
“What we need to do now, in my opinion, is to provide those tangible things that meet basic human needs,” said Lin Tyler, Vice President of the Board. “To be able to provide a place to shower, to wash your clothes, that is something that we do not currently have in our community.”
LASA has risen to the occasion. In November, they will begin building a new and expanded Client Services Center along with a 15-unit affordable housing complex. The Client Services Center will feature a wider range of basic needs services, including shower and laundry facilities, phone and computer access and a room set aside for MDC’s “Healthcare for the Homeless” to run a clinic once per week. In addition, they will continue to provide housing assistance, case management and basic needs services, as well as rental, utility, and transportation assistance.
“You’ll find that with people who are in need, if their basic needs are met, then you can actually get to the core issue of what is wrong,” said Barbara Severson, LASA’s Financial Manager and former Food Bank director and Office Manager at Families Unlimited Network in University Place.
The new facility is being funded in part by the State Housing Trust Fund, as well as grants from the City of Lakewood and Pierce County. LASA has also received funding from the Medina and Helen and John Vogt Foundations. They are currently in the midst of raising the remaining funds for the Client Services Center. Approximately $273, 391 must be secured before the end of this year.