By Ryan MacDonald
For ten straight years, Kristine Moreland had plans every Tuesday night.
Alongside the Union Gospel Mission Search and Rescue team, she would travel to the streets of South Downtown (SODO) and pass out bags of food and clothing to the city’s homeless community. And she never missed a week.
“Some of these people haven’t been talked to in weeks. Sometimes months,” said Moreland about her time serving on the front lines. “My main thing is everybody deserves a constant. Be somebody’s constant in their life.”
With around 3000 people living in tent cities around King County, the city’s homeless community is one of the largest in the nation, and it caused Mayor Ed Murray to call a federal state of emergency in 2015.
“Our resources are completely tapped out,” Moreland explained about how even with an annual budget of $50 million, the city’s services can’t provide for everyone who needs it.
While local politicians grapple with how to resolve this ongoing crisis, Moreland decided a few years ago to do something on her own. After a decade of volunteering with the Union Gospel Mission, she began her non-profit, The More Love Project, an organization that provides transitional services to the people who need them most.
Now in its second year, Moreland and a team of volunteers focuses on providing immediate shelter and assistance to those who can’t be helped otherwise. Some of these individuals have been kicked out of shelters or are suffering from mental illness, Moreland explained.
With help from corporate sponsor, Extended Stay, the More Love Project provides 48 hours of room and board while they assess each individual’s needs. Whether it’s providing a bus ticket to a safe place or providing shelter for at-risk children, they provide resources that are otherwise not available.
Often times the people they find on their Tuesday night rescues don’t have the access to do things like make a phone call or use the internet, which would help them get them out of a bad situation, Moreland said.
In the beginning, Moreland’s desire to help the community was based out of guilt from her own relationship with her father, who is currently living on the streets.
“He’s one of those guys who has more or less chosen his path and is not quite ready to get out of it,” she said, even though she tried to be in his life for a number of years.
Initially, Moreland focused her efforts on collecting winter coats and donating them to the local mission. Over the last couple of years, these collections grew beyond her expectations.
Today it’s the largest, annual coat drive in the state of Washington. This year alone the More Love Project raised 10,000 pounds of clothing, enough to fill an entire semi-truck.
“We have people that hold their coats all the way through the year and wait to donate to us,” she said.
And there’s more growth and expansion on the way. Moreland has partnered with Facebook to help push traffic to the organization’s home page when a specific resource is requested, and in coming months, the More Love Project will launch the city’s first ever shower truck.
This vehicle, which will be sponsored by Amerigroup, will operate along with the Union Gospel Mission Search and Rescue team and allow homeless residents to come and have a warm shower.
Eventually Moreland hopes to expand her services to include short and long term housing that is not run by the city. The launch of this branch of her organization will align Moreland’s professional day job in the real estate industry with her passion of helping others.
“We provide housing during the day and we also providing housing to those with the most immediate needs at night through the hotel stay,” she said. “There’s some irony in that”
Though this problem is far from being solved, Moreland believes everybody can make a difference. “You just need to sit back and think about what that is and what that looks like to you,” she said.
She believes kids should can get involved at an early age by doing things like making peanut butter sandwiches and helping their parents pass them out to people they see every day on the streets.
As for adults? “Open up your heart and your mind and remember that the people on the streets are humans,” she said. “They all have a story. They all have family at one point.”
But no matter how challenging the circumstances may become, Moreland won’t be going anywhere soon. She’s in this for the long haul.
“Most people want to go to Italy,” she joked about taking a vacation from all the work she does. “I want to go to skid row.”