It is our hope that this blog is a place to converse about poverty and homelessness, about Everett, and about how we can better work with and among our neighbors experiencing poverty, addiction, and mental (un)health. However, you might be wondering what this whole Our Common Ground things is. Since this is our first blog post, we thought we share a little bit about who we are, what we are going to be up to, and how Our Common Ground came about.
So here is the beginning of our story.
Our Common Ground is a ministry of Our Common Table, a church-in-formation in Everett, WA. Our Common Ground emerged through listening to our community. When we arrived in Everett, we arrived in the middle of a conversation about how Everett as a city was going to respond to the reality that there are an increasing number of folks on the streets experiencing homelessness, addiction, or mental (un)health. From the city sponsored Streets Initiative, to the non-profits, to the smaller churches and organizations, many were engaging in this conversation.
As a church, we knew we wanted to be a part of this in some way. But we also wanted to take a step back and listen. As you might know, churches can be awfully good at swooping in to an area with “solutions” without asking if those solutions will even be helpful or not. Or without getting to know those people whom they want to help. So we didn’t want to do this. Instead we listened. We volunteered at the various meals around town so we could get to know those living outside and those that serve the food. We got to know local pastors who had been working in these areas for years. We met with people who had been on the Everett Community Streets Initiative, and been involved in the larger city conversation about these issues. Luke even got a job with the Everett Recovery Cafe, where he was able to spend time every week with people in our neighborhood experiencing poverty, the illness of addiction, and various forms of mental (un)health.
Through this listening, we noticed a few things. One is that North Everett needed more safe, dry places to spend time during the day, that don’t cost money, and are welcoming to folks experiencing homelessness. There are a few places around, like the Everett Public Library and the Recovery Cafe, but they can get quite busy. The need for more day centers was also a conclusion from the Everett Streets Initiative. We also realized that more than simply safe and dry places, people experiencing poverty, addiction, and mental (un)health needed places where they could go and be treated like human beings. We realized that as a church, our primary job wasn’t to offer services. It was to offer community. As many of said, the main reason people end up on the street is not a lack of money. It is a lack of community. It is when all those connections are gone. And for anyone who has struggle with addiction or mental (un)health, or walked with someone who has, you know that healing from those things can be darn near impossible without the support of friends, family, and community.
So as we continued to listen, we began to ask how we might facilitate a safe, dry place, that was more than just a building, but a community.
Though our little church still had limited resources, we began to look for a location in Everett where both of these things could happen. This led us into conversation with Everett United Church of Christ, and it wasn’t long before we saw that we could work together on this. This was a community that cared deeply about folks living outside, and already had a long running food bank, as well as a meal on Thursday evenings. They also had a fellowship hall that was not being used in the mornings, and would be a great place to start a hospitality space to be open during the day.
And thus Our Common Ground was born. Our mission is to be a community of hospitality and collaboration that is open to all, as we journey together with our neighbors experiencing poverty, addiction, and mental illness. One of the main ways we will do this at first is through our Hospitality Space, which will be open in the fellowship hall at Everett UCC (2624 Rockefeller Everett, WA 98201) Monday-Thursday, 8am-Noon (opening mid-November!). We will have coffee, a few snacks, hopefully some needed supplies, and maybe even a few games! We very much see this as a beginning. A place where we can continue to listen to our neighbors, and ask how we might work together. Whether people stop by just once for a little while, or are a regular part of the Our Common Ground community, we want them to be welcome.
It is also our hope that Our Common Ground can be a community that goes beyond the walls of our hospitality space, as we live out our mission in Everett. That we can ask what hospitality looks like in our public spaces, in our neighborhoods, and on our streets. And that we can collaborate with anyone else about how we can work together to make Everett a safe and thriving place for ALL, including those experiencing poverty, addiction, or mental (un)health.
Lastly, we want to invite you to be a part of our story. Because we can’t do this work alone. We will need the help of folks like you, both in Everett and beyond. Right now, our biggest need is regular monthly donations. To serve our neighbors experiencing poverty, addiction, and mental illness well, if helps us to know that we can provide the few things we need to make this community happen. From coffee to socks to someone to make sure our friends are welcomed, these things make sure that we can live into our mission and be a place of community, hospitality, and collaboration. To see how easy it is to do this, visit our Donate page. There are also numerous non-monetary donations you can give that will help us get through our week. And please visit our Get Involved page to learn more about how you can parter with us on this work.