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Originally published Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 7:18 PM

A place of their own for homeless families in Central Seattle

Catholic Housing Services is providing 50 affordable apartments for homeless families in Seattle's Central District at Monica's Village. There were 10,695 homeless families in Washington state last year, according to the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Angela Burgess-Price moved to Seattle from Chicago in 2009 without much of a plan beyond finding a safer neighborhood for her three children.

"I had to start completely over," she said. "It was just by faith."

In the years since, she has struggled to hold down a job and separated from her husband. So she spent much of her time seeking help, filling out applications, monitoring waiting lists. For years, the family has bounced from shelter to transitional housing, fending off homelessness.

Families make up the fastest-growing segment of homeless people in King County. There were 10,695 homeless families in Washington state last year, according to the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance.

In response, Catholic Housing Services this spring opened Monica's Village Place I, a new, $17 million, low-income apartment building in Seattle's Central District. Fifty families, including Burgess-Price and her three kids, live there. Seventy more families are on the waiting list.

The project is just one example of how nonprofits are finding ways to permanently house families in an era of diminishing public funding for social services. In this case, Bank of America fronted the agency some money and financed a construction loan. The bank will get back the money long-term in the form of grants and tax breaks.

"The Great Recession has really affected our need to create affordable housing at a time when it's needed the most," said Evelyn Allen, director of the Village Spirit Center for Community Change and Healing, a program of Catholic Housing Services.

Monica's Village also offers residents on-site services: social workers, financial planning, help recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. And the building helps pay for its programs by renting a multipurpose room to outside groups.

Burgess-Price got to choose her own apartment — a first for her — and she's still adjusting to her new reality. She pays 30 percent of her income for rent. That means if she loses her child-care job, she doesn't have to worry about making the rent.

"When we were in the old house, we were kind of squished," said her daughter Jessica, 8, who shares a bunk-bed with her little sister Tahlia, 3. In their old house, they slept on the floor.

"We have our own courtyard, and we're able to play and run around and stuff," added Reginald, 11, who stuck around for a short interview even though he really wanted to go ride bikes.

Burgess-Price has found a safer place to raise her children. And now she has peace of mind, too. "There's shelters. There's transitional housing. But that's always in the back of your mind," she said. "Now I know me and my children won't be out on the street."

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

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