Cocoon House offers open house to community

From right, Shawndra Ng, Cocoon House site operator, Kay Duskin, vice chairwoman of the organization
From right, Shawndra Ng, Cocoon House site operator, Kay Duskin, vice chairwoman of the organization's board of directors and Jennifer Sawyer, shelter program manager encourage community members to attend the Sept. 2 open house.
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

ARLINGTON — The Cocoon House has a full dining room, a foosball table, and plenty of beds, clothes and dedicated staff members.

But it's what the Arlington home doesn't have that's causing organizers to put the homeless teen shelter in the public eye again.

Due in part to the building being closed for eight months in 2008, occupancy at the 3,900-square foot shelter has dropped off since the building's grand opening in 2006.

Now, with a new school year upon teenagers, staff members are hoping an open house will get the crisis center back on community members' radars.

"The purpose of the open house is not to fill our beds necessarily, but to let north Snohomish County know that we're here," said Jennifer Sawyer, shelter/program manager of the Arlington Cocoon House.

The open house will take place Sept. 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the shelter, located at 521 Highland Dr.

Special guests will be presenting at 12:15 p.m. Tours will be available until 3 p.m.

When the facility opened, the building was being utilized regularly, Sawyer said. About three or four teens per month would use the building as a temporary refuge — some were escaping from difficult homes, others simply needed a place to sleep.

But in April 2008, the building shifted from a child foster home to a staffed residential home, and ceased operating under Skagit County-based Secret Harbor.

Secret Harbor traditionally provides troubled youth with housing and treatment.

That change required the building to shut its doors while the necessary licenses and permits became official.

"We wanted to operate more independently," Sawyer said. "It was a good change."

Organizers brought on two new live-in site operators at the Arlington home — wife and husband team Shawndra and Andrew Ng.

Both started in November 2008.

"I expected lights and sirens when I started," said Shawndra Ng. "I expected it to be very dramatic. It's a lot different in a good way."

But with those changes came a drop off in clientele.

Now only about one or two teens makes use of the using Arlington home each month.

Those numbers typically increase as school begins, but the shelter has space for more, said Marty Bishop Arellano, director of Youth Operations.

Even if teenagers do not need housing, Cocoon House can also help set them up with a Cocoon Advocate, Bishop Arellano said. Advocates can serve as role models for teens and help get them community resources or counseling.

Teens also have access to the U-Turn Resource Center in Everett, which primarily gives homeless teenagers a way to connect with those advocates.

The Arlington home primarily serves ages 13-17.

Sawyer's last day at the facility was Aug. 28, but new program manager Steven Sterling is available by appointment to discuss the building's services.

"It was built for being a friendly, open shelter," Bishop Arellano said. "I almost wish we didn't call it a shelter. It should be called more of a home." For more information about Cocoon House visit them on-line or call 425-259-5802

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