Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Volunteer For Mary’s Place In Seattle Creates Resource Book To Help Homeless Seniors

Ashley Gross
Carole Tovar, who assembled a resource guide of information for older homeless women

Amid Seattle’s growing numbers of homeless people, there’s a group that can sometimes be overlooked – senior citizens. A volunteer for the nonprofit group Mary’s Place has created a resource book to help that population find information on just about anything they might need. 

A recent New York Times story highlighted the aging of the homeless population in the U.S., and that’s a trend that Mary’s Place has seen as well. The group runs homeless shelters and provides meals and other services to women and families in crisis.

Mary’s Place asked volunteer Carole Tovar to put together a book of information such as phone numbers and names of agencies to address the needs of older homeless women. It’s the kind of stuff a lot of people would find online.

"They thought the resource book would be good for them because most of them are not computer literate," she said.

Tovar spent time talking with older women to find out what they needed. She’s 76 years old and feels a lot of empathy for their struggles.

"I’d go out and say, `Are you 62 and over?' Because you can’t always tell," she said. "And I would just sit and talk to them, and a lot of them just wanted somebody to talk to."

Many told her how lonely they were or how the death of a spouse left them unable to afford housing. She started compiling information into a big binder: how to get a free cell phone, subsidized Orca cards, even how to arrange a cheap funeral.

"Which is something that some people have asked me about because they’re concerned if they’re getting older, what’s going to happen to their body?" Tovar said.

Tovar came to Mary’s Place through the nonprofit group Companis, which matches volunteers with organizations that need them.

Companis Executive Director Gary Davis said his group has now printed about 40 copies of the resource guide for other volunteers to use.

"The beautiful thing about Carole’s volunteerism in this is that she has the time and availability to put into it to keep it up to date," Davis said. 

Davis said the plan is to put the resource guide online so that the information can be shared more broadly.  

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.