KITSAP COUNTY, Wash. - Can one person really make a difference?
One woman in Kitsap County is determined to do just that by helping the homeless. She's a Q13 News Changemaker who is hoping to create a ripple effect across the Puget Sound.
Kimmy Siebens says working as a registered nurse in a trauma ICU put her in contact with homeless people, opening her eyes to the struggles they face. But it’s her life saving work outside the hospital that has the people of Kitsap County talking.
Frank Block says he and his dog, River, used to be homeless in Bremerton.
“I didn’t really ask her for help but she came to help me,” he said.
Siebens found him a place to stay, and she checks in on him often to make sure he’s safe and healthy. She began her outreach last year when she founded a non-profit called “Their Voice” that provides food and veterinary care to homeless pets.
“I felt bad giving the pets everything and leaving the owner there in these situations,” Siebens said.
That’s how the Facebook group called Bremerton Homeless Community Coalition came to be. Members include those who are experiencing homelessness and those who want to help.
Siebens shares information about a person in need, and members of the group can donate money, goods, even their own time.
That’s how one Mom and her daughter, Sharon and Rita, went from living inside a van to a trailer. Siebens and some volunteers gutted it and made it livable..
“Since Kimmy’s been around, we’ve gotten a place to live, we have our food, our dogs are taken care of,” Rita said.
But in the light of day, some spaces are beyond repair.
Siebens says she discovered a homeless woman she’d been caring for seeking shelter inside an abandoned house.
“No one’s really watching things up here or could hear her screaming,” she said.
Very ill, the woman couldn’t walk, and had very little food and no access to running water.
“She slid across the room and opened the door for me and I found her in there,” Siebens said.
Her name is Taz, and thanks to Siebens, she’s now receiving medical care. She even got her a wheelchair after posting about it in the Facebook group.
“I want to advocate for her in any way I can to make sure that we have a better plan in place,” Siebens said.
“In the long run it takes more people, but just what she started has opened so many eyes and that’s made a world of difference,” Taz said.
Homeless seniors are a vulnerable community, and so are homeless kids.
“We were originally homeless because of domestic violence,” a woman named Sarah says as she’s putting her kids to bed in the back of a car one night as Siebens checks in on her.
Siebens connected with Sarah on the Facebook group. Sarah and the kids have been living in the car since June, and she says they’re on a waiting list for a shelter.
In the meantime, Siebens is making sure they have what they need to get by. Sarah has some good news to share during this visit.
“She got a job today!” Siebens said. “And she starts tomorrow!”
Sarah and the kids have a long way to go, but her plan is to one day give back to another family as Siebens did for her.
“Hopefully we can keep that momentum going,” she said.
So can one person really make a difference?
“I’d love to see it spread to other cities,” Siebens said.
Siebens’ ripple on the community is waking everyone up. If one person can inspire another, maybe that ripple is really just a reflection of what’s possible inside us all.