Good Shepherd House Proclaims God’s Love

On May 29, folks from the Lutheran and Christian community, citizens of the city of Seattle, and partners of Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) gathered to celebrate the grand opening of Good Shepherd House: A seven-story, 86-unit building with 84 studio apartments providing permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless people in Seattle.

Good Shepherd House is the result of a decade-long pursuit of The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd (LCGS) to serve the unhoused of the Central District. What began with an opportunity Pastor Steve Olsen brought to LCGS to house a few people in the parsonage became a tent encampment known as Nickelsville. For several years, LCGS worked hard to care for people who, for one reason or another, had trouble finding stable housing. During this time, LCGS made a connection with Sharon Lee at LIHI and began developing plans for tiny homes where the tents once stood. Trustee of LCGS said that the move towards tiny homes came because, “We realized people needed two things the tent cities couldn’t provide: centralized plumbing and a stable perimeter fence.” Of course, this move had practical implications such as no more porta potties. However, LCGS was doing more than fixing practical problems; they were giving the unhoused their dignity by working to install toilets and securing homes.

Through their partnership with LIHI, LCGS became the first tiny home development in the nation, according to Lee. As with any “prototype,” growing pains were part of the process. What LCGS started to realize is that they could make a bigger impact with their land, even though their actions had already done so much for the Central District of Seattle. Through conversations with Lee, the leaders at LCGS began dreaming big. What if we could have an entire building for tenants on our land? Over several years, they worked with legal experts, civic leaders, and community stakeholders to make this dream a reality.

On May 29, 2024, a partnership was celebrated just as much as the fulfillment of a dream for the Central District. And, as Pastor Paul Winterstein said, this is a “unique” celebration. Not many churches in Seattle, let alone the country, endeavor to do something so amazing and life-giving as the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd has done. This is said not to gloat over or shame other congregations, but to declare: “We have done this. So can you!”

Current LCGS Pastor Nate Whittaker said, “From the beginning, the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd has been dedicated to following Jesus to reach out in love to our community. Through our Pastor Steve Olsen, we began using our parsonage to help the unhoused in the community. That work grew into welcoming the tent city of Nickelsville and the tiny homes of LIHI. Now, through the tireless work of Steve Tucker, Sharon Lee and LIHI, and the many folks from Walsh Construction, we welcome the next step of what our God is doing in this community. We will continue to follow our Lord and serve our community with love. We have come this far by faith and cannot wait to see what the next 100 years bring all of us!”

While the celebration had many powerful moments, including the words of US Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, State Representative Frank Chopp, and Director of the Seattle Office of Housing Maiko Winkler-Chin (all of which can be found by reading this story), the moment that sticks out the most is when Seattle City Council Member Joy Hollingsworth surprised the gathered by leading everyone in a hymn sung at the LCGS every week. Not only was this amazing, it also captured the celebration of that day. So, we end with the words of the refrain of that hymn:

We’ve come this far by faith,
Leaning on the Lord.
Trusting in his holy word.
He’s never failed us yet.
Oh, oh- oh- can’t turn around,
We’ve come this far by faith.

Nathan C. Whittaker

The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd - Seattle

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