Alumnus Runs Seattle-based Heroes for the Homeless
Seattle, WA (November 4, 2010) – Tricia Lapitan, (C’92) a Seattle lawyer, saw many hungry and homeless people every day on her way to work and decided to take action. “After reading hundreds of police reports as part of my job in the criminal justice system, I found that the #1 thing people steal in Seattle is food,” says Lapitan, founder and executive director of the charity Heroes for the Homeless. Her voluntary organization distributes food, drinking water, clothing, and outdoor survival supplies to homeless individuals in Washington State’s King County.
Lapitan started her work by handing out a few breakfast bars and sandwiches. She asked family and friends to join her in the weeks before Christmas of 2006. Instead of exchanging presents, they gave hot chocolate and food to homeless individuals sleeping in doorways and courtyards. “On December 20, 2006 five of us fed over 140 people. The next day,” she says, “I felt as if the world had turned upside down.”
The organization now serves up to 700 clients per month, and partners with individuals, local businesses, community organizations, churches and agencies to give out food and supplies. Since Heroes was founded they have handed out “more than 27,150 sandwiches, 17,288 cups of hot chocolate, 15,577 bananas, 9,516 hard boiled eggs, 8,825 bottles of water, 5,217 pairs of socks and 2,816 hygiene kits.” Their work has been featured in the West Seattle Herald, The Bellevue Reporter and Real Change. Lapitan says, “The support of other concerned citizens and local businesses has been overwhelming.” The work of Heroes for the Homeless is voluntary, she says, “so all funding can be directed to helping our clients.”
Part of Lapitan’s identification with the homeless is her own story, “My family and I arrived in this country in 1976 with six suitcases. We were poor. My parents instilled in me very early that the only way out of poverty was education . . . Living in Chicago and being a commuter student at NPU helped me to develop a sense of stewardship to the city and the community within it.” She remembers a “turning point for selecting law as a career was a class I took . . . taught by Professor Warren Wade. We took a field trip down to the Cook County Courthouse and spent the day observing cases.” She recalls North Park University professors Arnesen and Dooley as particularly “instrumental in encouraging me to pursue more education.”
Lapitan finally credits her clients as her inspiration, “There are also countless examples of how the homeless are so grateful for our small effort, they will help others in spite of their vulnerability. They share food. They look out for one another. They ask us to bring help to their friends. Our clients would even refuse an extra pair of socks so that someone else can receive socks. This is the world we should be building. It's an honor to do this work.”