The Sophia Way

Washington / Aug. 23, 2012 / by The Team

Homelessness can affect people of every age, gender and background for many different reasons. For single women who are homeless, the prospect of spending the night in a shelter can be a daunting one. In Bellevue, Washington, there is a solution for women who feel vulnerable in shelters: the Sophia Way. 

“The Sophia Way is a shelter and housing program for homeless women,” says Helen Leuzzi, the Founder and Executive Director. “We try to help our clients move from survivorship to how do they really want to live their life.”

Leuzzi founded The Sophia because she felt there was a lack of support for certain women in her community. She explains that while the area “has a wonderful organization that serves women and families and women who are immediate victims of domestic violence,” there were no women-only shelters for women who did not fall into certain categories. 

The existing services provided for women seemed only to cater to women that fell within certain circumstances. Whereas, in contrast, “if men were homeless, they didn't have to have children, not have children, be of a certain age, be in a certain domestic violence situation, a family situation,” says Leuzzi.

A women-only shelter can be vital for a homeless woman’s feeling of comfort and safety. Leuzzi explains that, “for women, safety is a major, major factor.” For a single woman to enter a shelter that is otherwise mostly inhabited by men can be stressful and make women feel uneasy or unsafe. 

The Sophia Way works to create a positive environment that supports women who most need their help and get them back to the life they want. They have several programs to do so, including two different accommodation programs. 

“We have Sophia's Place, which is our programmatic shelter and that's where we invite women in and they have a guaranteed bed every night and they have case management. Then we have Sophia's Home, which is our housing program,” says Leslie Miller, the Client Services Director. 

Sophia’s Home provides a house for a small group of women to live in a community. They have access to the support and companionship they need to help them move on with their lives but maintain an independence that builds their self-confidence. 

Residence Manager, BJ Marshall explains that, “The women that we deal with, they're very, very lonely, depressed and some of them just can't live in private apartments so people have each other to come home to and that gives them companionship. The ones that are out in apartments don't have that special effect.”

Sophia’s Place provides a place to sleep for women who need it but they also provide support to help women get back on their feet. The team at Sophia’s Place works to find out “what each woman needs in her life, what kind of support and resources she needs” to tailor the program to each individual. 

There are a variety of issues that can keep women from homelessness including mental health problems, physical disabilities and addiction. Leuzzi explains that, “we really look and seek hard to find out what are the barriers in your life that are keeping you from getting to the destination you want to go.”

The Sophia Way also provides classes that aim to give women all the tools they need to deal with the difficulties they are facing. These classes can include anything from basic financial skills and learning about nutrition to health concerns and meditation. 

The mission of The Sophia Way is to provide a safe and supportive environment that will help adult women of all ages in any way they can, either for a short time or longer. With their shelter and their classes, they provide the well-rounded help that is needed for homeless women. 

“They've been abandoned, they've been abused, no one is supporting them the way they were supported for years,” says Leuzzi. Now, however, The Sophia Way is providing that much needed support and energy that is helping women get themselves back on their feet. “We are actually filling that niche,” and transforming lives each day. 

To learn more about The Sophia Way, visit their website and Facebook page