Proving that wealth is about far more than dollars and cents, travel guru Rick Steves, best known for his PBS show Rick Steves Europe and best-selling travel guides, came up with an idea nearly two decades ago to invest his personal fortune in people instead of things.
Having always been interested in affordable housing and community building, Steves purchased a 24-unit housing complex in Lynwood, Washington in 2005 that, in partnership with the YWCA Seattle King Snohomish, became Trinity Place. In a blog post on his website, he explained that the facility is part of unique retirement plan he dreamed up for himself some two decades ago.
Twenty years ago, I devised a scheme where I could put my retirement savings not into a bank to get interest, but into cheap apartments to house struggling neighbors. I would retain my capital, my equity would grow as the apartment complex appreciated, and I would suffer none of the headaches that I would have if I had rented out the units as a landlord. Rather than collecting rent, my “income” would be the joy of housing otherwise desperate people. I found this a creative, compassionate and more enlightened way to “invest” while retaining my long-term security.
This project evolved until, eventually, I owned a 24-unit apartment complex that I provided to the YWCA. They used it to house single moms who were recovering hard-drug addicts and were now ready to get custody of their children back. Imagine the joy of knowing that I could provide a simple two-bedroom apartment for a mom and her kids as she fought to get her life back on track. Imagine the joy of giving people who dedicate their lives (through their work with the YWCA) to helping these people in need the facility to better do their work.
To me, this wasn’t particularly noble or compassionate… it was just thoughtful use of my capital.
According to the Seattle Times, the apartments, which include easy access to public transit, groceries, and schools, have helped 61 impoverished families, including 125 children, avoid homelessness while getting back on their feet over the last 12 years. As Steves mentioned, many occupants are single mothers overcoming addiction.
“It’s been a godsend honestly,” Trinity Place resident Tamra told KING-TV. “Trinity Place means being able to have my kids with me and being able to raise them and be a mom again and get my life back on track.”
Steves, 61, had always planned to leave the complex to the YAWA, but, in the aftermath of the 2016 election and what he called “the rise of a new, greed-is-good ethic in our government,” he decided there was no better time than the present to turn over the property. In April 2017, Steves officially donated the $4 million housing complex to YAWA.
“It was a complete surprise,” YWCA spokeswoman Annalee Schafranek told the Puget Sound Business Journal of the donation, adding Steves’ gift gives the organization a new level of stability.
In his post, Steve shared that he hoped his “creative way” of putting “a fortunate person’s retirement nest egg to work in a powerful way” will spark others to consider how they can make an impact in their own communities, instead of relying on the government to solve the problems for them.
Ultimately, he told KING-TV that he goes to sleep every night with a smile on his face knowing that he was able to turn an abandoned piece of land into a safe place for families who have fallen on tough times.
“I get a huge joy out of going to bed thinking, hey, I’m helping house 70 people who would be in cars or motels or in people’s basements scrounging around,” Steves said. “I think about when I found this place it was just a moldy haunted house. That’s what it was… and I just thought, ‘Man, there’s God in that mold.’”
(H/T: The Epoch Times)