U-District homeless shelter for young people now forced to search for new site

SEATTLE -- Neighborhoods across the Seattle area are undergoing major transformations as light rail extensions get closer to completion.

The pace of life in the University District is changing. As light rail comes in, buildings are going up, and some longtime services are on their way out.

“Nonprofits would be shortsighted not to see that this is the writing on the wall in this district,” said Arthur Padilla, interim executive director of Roots, a nonprofit homeless shelter providing services to youth ages 18-26.

Roots is housed in the basement of the University Temple United Methodist Church.

“There’s breakfast every morning and dinner every night. They’re open all year, they don’t close for anything,” said Becca Giannola, who is homeless and stays in the shelter.

Giannola and her boyfriend Charles Donatiello say they ended up at Roots after living in a tent city on the Eastside.

“They did a huge sweep, so everyone from Redmond came to Seattle,” said Donatiello.

“We woke up one day and said we deserve so much better than this,” said Giannola.

Donatiello says he ended up homeless after driving drunk one night and losing his job.

“I didn’t ask for this, it was a mistake that I made, I’m trying to fix that, I don’t want to present myself as a homeless person. I’m a citizen just like everyone else,” said Donatiello.

For Giannola, she ended up in jail because of an ex-boyfriend and some bad decisions led her to the streets.

But these two found each other and they also found Roots, which has helped them get back on their feet and find work.

“Right on the Ave” is where Donatiello says he now works at a fast-food restaurant. “So I’m busting my butt and I also just signed up for Postmates (delivery service), so I’m making money on the side. So that’s great, the resources here are great."

But those resources are at risk.

“The church is in need of a huge amount of work they can’t afford,” said Padilla.

He says the church decided to redevelop.

“It’s destabilizing in a big way,” said Padilla.

He says the church will keep a smaller space for the congregation and let go of the rest for condos and commercial space.

“So, for the next 18 months we have to go find a place, retrofit it, renovate it, get it ready for all these folks and then move in.”

For now, Roots is looking for a space.

“There’s not a lot of landlords who are willing to open the door to us.”

The church will begin renovation in 2021, a project slated to last three years.

“We need a three-year home,” said Padilla.

Padilla says, in a way, they’re also on the brink of homelessness and looking for stability -- just like the people they provide services for.

"I have so many goals in my life, but they’re not huge goals. I don’t want a nice fancy house or anything like that, I mean I’d love that, but I just want something stable I can come home to, cook dinner, just stability like that,” said Donatiello.