Federal Way Day Center: Organizing In Action Case Study

Sound Alliance’s organizing practices helped lead to the successful opening and public funding of the Federal Way Day Center for the unsheltered in 2016 after a 3+ year campaign.

The Center, which is being operated by Catholic Community Services, is providing basic services such as showers, laundry facilities, PO boxes, computer access, etc.  Counseling and case management is also available.  These services help the houseless maintain dignity and get back on their feet more quickly.

The Organizing Principles that helped Sound Alliance leaders be successful:

  • Leaders at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church identified the need for daytime services for the homeless through a listening campaign.  Subsequently, Sound Alliance leaders employed Research Actions to meet with homeless community members and professional service providers, gathering more information on the services available and needed, and gaining insight on the political landscape in Federal Way.

  • This research allowed leaders to Cut a Winnable Issue, imagining a “day center” that was big enough to fill a community need, but small enough that it was attainable financially and politically.

  • Sound Alliance leaders then conducted a Power Analysis, realizing that Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell was a key figure to galvanize funding and partnerships for the project.

  • In November 2014, leaders organized a 275-person Action Assembly to create a public relationship with Mayor Ferrell.  His public agreement to help find an appropriate site and secure capital and operation funding gave the campaign momentum.

  • In 2015, leaders continued to organize and educate members of their own institutions about the Center with Civic Academies. These workshops encouraged members to take public action in support of the Center by turning out at City Council meetings and putting public pressure on elected officials.

Day Center Celebration
  • In October 2015, efforts paid off.  A packed City Hall gave a standing ovation as Federal Way City Council unanimously approved $100,000 to launch the Day Center.  A Celebration (the last step of the organizing cycle!) followed at a formal assembly where we recognized leaders who had played key roles in the victory.

  • Especially in the implementation phase, leaders were involved in multiple rounds of negotiations with many parties including elected officials and neighbors who had different concerns about the center. This required leaders to reflect on their interests and find mutually acceptable compromises.

  • Sound Alliance leaders also demonstrated their commitment to the so-called “Iron Rule” which is to never do for others what they can do for themselves - and to build power with people rather than to do things for them.  Leaders within Federal Way’s unsheltered community were key partners and allies in this campaign. Some publicly shared about their experience, participated in key negotiations, and mobilized other homeless community members to demonstrate broad community support for the Day Center at action assemblies with the Mayor and City Council.

A special congratulations to Lynn Ormsby, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, and the Sound Alliance team at Saltwater Unitarian Universalist Church, as they took the leadership to work with allied organizations as the Center raised the last bit of funds and finished the bureaucratic and administrative steps necessary to open.



See pictures of the campaign on Facebook




Day Center Links: