Sharry Edwards announces bid for Federal Way City Council

SE17_FB_pic_5_w_sky.pngSharry Edwards announced she will run for Position 4 on the Federal Way City Council.

Edwards has worked as a nurse for over 22 years, and finds time to help the homeless. She said she is known as an advocate for people from all levels of society, saying, “The commitment you have seen from me in the community is the same commitment you can expect from me on the City Council.”

Edwards said she believes that the City Council is the place to continue her efforts by looking at ways to help people stuck in the cycle of poverty and by providing opportunities for people to help themselves.

“Job creation is important, and so is education,” she said in a news release. “While I’m excited about UWT locating here in Federal Way, I would also like to attract a technical college/trade school because not everyone has the time or money to attend a large university.”

An opportunity to learn a trade quickly in technology, culinary or the medical field could be a great solution to help underserved people get an education quickly, which would allow them to obtain a better quality of life, she said.

Edwards believes the health and safety of the public start with leaders that take the time to listen.

“No matter if it is a concern about traffic, public safety, the environment, or privacy and property, I will be there,” she said.

Regarding illegal drugs infiltrating our community Edwards states, “It has to become the topic of conversation. Heroin and meth are killing people and breaking down our safety. I see this in my work with the homeless, and have learned that people are becoming addicted at a faster rate than ever before because they can obtain the drugs easily and inexpensively. Let’s work with law enforcement and put an end to this.”

Edwards said she is committed to help educate the public on how irresponsible development can impact an entire ecosystem, noting the former Weyerhaeuser property and citizens of Northlake have real concerns about the environmental impacts that industrial building will have on the Hylebos salmon-fed watershed.

“Whenever there is concern over an ecosystem in danger, we need to stop and listen,” she said. “We owe it to the community to be good stewards to the land, as we are to the taxpayers.”

Edwards and her spouse Owen have three children and a Siberian Husky (Shadow). The oldest (Zane) is a Senior at the University of Washington Seattle and the youngest (Ruby and Simon) attend Decatur High School. Edwards works as a nurse for Group Health Cooperative in Federal Way.

Along with being involved with many community service clubs and organizations, she is most proud of helping the homeless in Federal Way.

“We are all equal,” she said. “Life can be so difficult and helping each other is what it’s all about.”

Mayor Appoints Sharry Edwards as Co-Chair of Homeless Mothers and Childrens Initiative

A shopping cart lay on its side in the middle of a forest.

A stuffed animal, a tiger, sat atop it, while its “friend,” a moose, was feet away in the dirt.

The shopping cart, toys, clothes and garbage strewn about are the first signs of a homeless encampment currently tucked in the woods to the east of the Kitts Corner Apartments in Federal Way. Further in sits a make-shift tent made of pieced-together tarps, more shopping carts, a bike and a stroller.

Homeless camps like this are not uncommon for homeless residents in Federal Way.

“We have families sleeping in tents when it’s really cold and no place to send them,” Councilwoman Susan Honda said, Jan. 9.

At the appointment of Mayor Jim Ferrell, Honda and Sharry Edwards, a Group Health nurse, will serve as co-chairs of the city’s new Homeless Mothers and Children Initiative — a task force dedicated to connecting the many homeless service organizations in Federal Way together and finding ways to fill the gaps of need – such as providing meals on Sundays. In conjunction, the task force has partnered with New Hope Christian Fellowship to provide shelter to 35 homeless mothers and children.

“I know there is a huge need for it in Federal Way,” said Angela Greco, the director of outreach for New Hope Christian Fellowship, of the shelter. “I can tell you that, just within the last six months, since they bulldozed The Jungle in Seattle, we are seeing the number we are serving rise.”

New Hope, 31411 Sixth Avenue S. in Federal Way, currently provides shelter for up to 35 individuals and couples. Doors open at 7 p.m. and close by 8 a.m.

In the short-term, the city will also make minor improvements to Brooklake Community Center, which will be used for overflow or if New Hope cannot open. Catholic and Community Services will operate Brooklake if it is needed.

Edwards, a longtime volunteer with the Federal Way Community Caregiving Network, said, throughout the last two years, she and Honda identified gaps in services for the homeless in Federal Way, specifically serving children.

“We learned we have over 300 homeless children in Federal Way Public Schools,” Edwards said.

Edwards said she is grateful for the opportunity to work on the initiative and looks forward to working with Honda, who “has good knowledge of this critical need.”

“As I’ve said before, it’s not our place to judge how a person or a family has become homeless,” she said in a press release issued this week. “What matters is that, in this moment and time, these people are in need of help.”

Honda said she attended a workshop in Tukwila with city staff and police last spring. During that workshop, a police officer came up with the idea to have a coalition of all the many homeless advocacy groups, which include Reach Out, the Federal Way Community Caregiving Network, FUSION and more.

While Reach Out provides shelter to individual men and women separately, children, who cannot be taken from their parents, are short-changed. In an interview process, Reach Out determine’s people’s needs, and those in need of shelter are served on a first come, first served basis. The shelter at New Hope will be also be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Honda said the task force will likely need some kind of funding moving forward, but, because the initiative is so new, it’s unknown how much that will be and whether it will come from grants or city money. Greco said New Hope is always looking for monetary donations to pay for utilities, gift cards or food, as it tries to give out breakfast some mornings.

“It’s desperately needed, not just in Federal Way, but in King County as a whole,” Greco said of help for homeless people. “There are so few places that will take families in. They split families up.”

Greco said if a boy is 13 years old, he typically is referred to a men’s shelter, instead of staying with his family.

“They’re already in a tender position,” she said. “Places like ours are few and far between, and we desperately need more of them.”

In addition to providing shelter, New Hope offers outreach from 9 a.m. until about noon, sometimes later depending on the services provided, every Tuesday and Wednesday. A free lunch is offered at 11 a.m. and providers, such as the Multi-Service Center and the King County Mobile, Medical and Dental Van help those in need.


Sharry Edwards, Boy Scouts Help Homeless

With more wet, rainy weather and the possibility of snow in the forecast for the coming winter months, individuals who find themselves homeless in Federal Way are grappling with the ability to stay warm and dry.

Sharry Edwards, a nurse at Group Health in Federal Way for more than 20 years and who last January made the Caregiver’s Network laundry program a once-a-month service to the homeless, is once again showing compassion for the less fortunate via putting forth a month-long donation drive through Nov. 30, to collect tents, tarps, sleeping bags and sleeping pads for the homeless.

“There are many reasons that people are homeless, but our place is not to judge that right now with winter quickly approaching,” Edwards said. “Some homeless live outside and some in their vehicles. People can find themselves homeless very quickly, and it’s important for any city to have emergency supplies such as these available to folks that might be in sudden need.”

Edwards’s idea to launch a month-long donation drive was inspired by her colleagues at Group Health who asked her how they could help the homeless more. After the Mirror’s June article about Edwards’s laundry event at Dash Point Laundry, Group Health’s management team contacted Edwards and asked if they could write a story about her volunteer work in Federal Way. The story was read by Group Health’s 8,000 statewide employees over a two-week span.


Sharry's Letter: Woman Who Lives in the Woods

There’s a woman who lives in the woods here in Federal Way, whom I met last month while volunteering with the Federal Way Community Caregiving Network. We were washing clothes for the homeless and others challenged with resources. This was the second event of its kind that the organization has put on, and whose mission is to help the homeless with basic needs.

The guests in need of these services tell heartbreaking stories. They talk about living in shelters, in their vehicles and in the woods. Last month, a woman named Margaret asked me to help her at her washing machine. She was washing an old comforter that had black spots of mold deep into the material. I was afraid there was nothing we could do to get them out. I can’t describe the deep sadness in her eyes, and the fear in her voice when she told me quietly, “This is all new to me. I don’t even have a sleeping bag.” She went on to explain that she was living in the woods.

The King County One Night Count that took place on Jan. 23 came up with a number 21 percent higher than last year county-wide. Volunteers across King County counted 3,772 men, woman and children sleeping outside. Kudos to the King County Homeless Coalition for taking this to Olympia last week, and sounding a gong 3,772 times for every soul (that we know of) in our county trying to survive outside in these extreme wet, cold and unsafe conditions. Homelessness must become a top priority. A community with people living without shelter is a community in crisis.

I’m sure you can imagine that I could not get Margaret out of my mind after meeting her last month. I was able to find a waterproof, below 30-degree sleeping bag and some warm clothes for her. I drove around looking for her for several weeks before I found her at a community supper recently. She looked healthy, and told me how desperately she needed a job. And yes, she explained, she is still living in the woods.

Sharry Edwards, Federal Way

Sharry Edwards helps homeless women in Federal Way get fitted, find bras

On the last Wednesday of each month, Sharry Edwards spends her day helping homeless people pay for loads and loads of washed laundry at the Dash Point Laundry.

It was there that Edwards noticed the women didn’t wear bras.

“It’s unfortunate in this society that people could be struggling to such a level that they couldn’t afford a basic necessity, such as a bra,” she said.

That thought would culminate in this Wednesday’s effort, when Edwards and Judy Ritchie helped a handful of homeless women by giving away a free fitting and bra.

At first, she was uncomfortable bringing up the subject – why were so many homeless women bra-less?

“I talked to a woman in private, one of our homeless women, and she said she hasn’t had a bra in over 10 years and it’s because they’re too expensive and she also didn’t know what size she wore,” Edwards said. “So with that, and hearing a few others’ stories, I decided to start asking friends for donations.”

Edwards received a few, but it wasn’t enough.

She contacted Ritchie, who started Tacoma-based Judy’s Intimate Apparel in 1978. Edwards, a nurse, knew of the shop’s work in fitting women who had mastectomies and hoped she would be able to help.

“I found out she went into retirement, but someone forwarded her my message that I was working with homeless women and really wanted to help them, not only to get bras but to get fitted in the right size, because it’s really a matter of dignity and a matter of health,” Edwards said.

Although Ritchie retired 20 years ago, she got in touch with Edwards and the two began planning. Ritchie contacted a Goodwill in Tacoma, and the store agreed to donate five garbage bags full of bras.

“When she contacted them, she found out they don’t even put them on the shelf because they get stolen so often,” Edwards said. “That really sort of outraged her and myself because we felt like, ‘These are donated items and, these people need them so badly.'”

The two washed, sorted and threw away hundreds of bras, but they came away with one garbage bag of worthy garments that were proudly displayed at Dash Point Laundry.

S.P., a woman who is going through hard times and wished not to be named, said she hadn’t been fitted for a bra since she was a teenager, making it hard to find bras that were comfortable.

“So now I’ve got the perfect bra, and the lady came and got me, took me in the bathroom and fitted me and it was helpful,” she said. “It just makes you feel comfortable, not making you feel all embarrassed or nothing. It was just wonderful, wonderful. It’s a blessing from God.”

Leanne O’Neal also said she’s had problems finding the right size.

“Unfortunately, we’re women; we have to wear them to be somewhat decent, but I usually just choose to wear undershirts as opposed to bras but there’s no support,” O’Neal said.

And wearing a bra is more than comfort, style and expense. It could be the one thing that stands in the way of a job and getting out of homelessness.

“That would be a barrier to gaining employment, just like having dirty clothes is, and that’s one of the reasons we do this: to make sure they have nice clean clothes and bedding,” Edwards said. “They bring their sleeping bags, blankets… this is the only time a month they get to wash all of their stuff.”

Ritchie said society is used to seeing women with bras, and if they aren’t wearing them then people tend to wonder why.

“It’s society’s norm to be dressed under your clothes,” she said.

Edwards hopes to give away more bras at the Monday night suppers hosted by the Federal Way Community Caregiving Network, and she said she’ll donate the remainders to the Multi-Service Center.





Edwards honored for service

The Reach Out Breakfast, an annual fundraiser for the non-denominational collection of local churches that was held Sept. 27, raised thousands of dollars in donations and recognized community volunteers that help the group serve the homeless in South King County. Sharry Edwards was honored with Reach Out’s “Pay It Forward” award for their efforts to aid the indigent. 


From left: Federal Way City Councilmember Martin Moore, Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell, Sharry Edwards, King County Councilmember Pete Von Reichbauer. Photo by Mike Dziak


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Sharry Edwards, Citizen of the Month | Nurse provides homeless place to wash clothes in Federal Way

Edwards__Ferrel_-_Citizen_of_the_Month.jpgAs a licensed practical nurse for Group Health in Federal Way for over 20 years, Sharry Edwards said it’s her job to treat her patients with dignity.

Edwards was nominated by Federal Way Councilman Martin Moore as the Federal Way Mirror’s June Citizen of the Month.

Edwards, a board member and volunteer for the Federal Way Community Caregiving Network, said treating the homeless should be no different.

“I believe the homeless and people less fortunate need to be treated with dignity and respect,” Edwards said. “I think the way the U.S. deals with the homeless is completely backwards. I treat these homeless like I treat my patients. I would never treat one different than the other. Society doesn’t realize that some of these people have fallen on hard times. It’s a series of events that have gotten them to this place.”

Moore nominated Edwards because of the proactive steps she took recently to expand the Caregiving  Network’s laundry program from twice a year to once a month. The laundry program provides a place and time each month where individuals struggling to meet basic needs can come and wash their clothes and blankets, free of charge.

“It’s so wonderful to see her in action, caring for the homeless. She listens to these people authentically,” Moore said. “It’s amazing how much she does.”

Last December, Edwards said she had heard about the laundry program and decided to attend the program at Dash Point Laundry. She quickly learned that the laundry program was only offered once before, eight months prior.

“I went to the second laundry event in December and I met Mary,” Edwards said. “She told me she was newly homeless.”

Edwards learned that Mary lived in the woods and discovered that she couldn’t get all her clothes to the laundromat, so Edwards went with Mary to help her pick up her clothes.

“There was story after story; I wanted to do more,” Edwards said. “I went to the Caregiving board and asked if we could (do the laundry program) more often, and if so, I would take it on as a regular project. (The board) unanimously agreed.”

Edwards quickly dispersed invitations to the laundry program out to the three weekly suppers sponsored by the Caregiving Network.

Through invitations and word of mouth, the laundry program since January has averaged 15-20 guests.

“Most of our guests live in their vehicles. Some live in the woods; some live in shelters. They’re underprivileged,” Edwards said. “The only times they get their clothes washed is at this event, which is why I wanted to push it to once a month.”

Edwards said the Caregiving Network is very appreciative to be partnered with Dash Point Laundry.

“We have the capacity of the huge washing machines,” Edwards said. “For every $60 I spend, they add an additional $15 for us.”

Individuals and businesses have donated soaps and fabric softeners. A modest budget helps support the washing of clothes.

“All they need to do is show up with their clothes,” Edwards said. “I also make them delicious sandwiches.”

On Wednesday, more than 20 homeless guests arrived with their clothes, the most Edwards had seen attend since January.

Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell also attended to talk with the homeless guests. Ferrell said Edwards’s work with the laundry program dovetails nicely with the city’s efforts to build a day shelter, a regional hygiene center where homeless guests could bathe, shower, check their mail and use the Internet.

“I think Sharry is fantastic,” Ferrell said. “She has a real good heart for the less fortunate.”

Mark Cowans, 54, has come to the laundry program twice. Two months ago, his unemployment ran out. He said he’s been homeless for four months.

“I don’t want to be homeless,” Cowans said. “I’m working towards not being homeless.”

Cowans said it’s possible he may be able to return to work in a month. Until then, he said it’s nice to have the laundry program available.

“It gives people who have no resources an opportunity,” Cowans said. “It gives us a sense of dignity.”