Helen Leuzzi, a philanthropist and an ardent women’s advocate, strongly felt that women experiencing homelessness in Eastside needed a safe place to stay. In 2006, Helen and a group of supporters from the Bellevue First Congregational Church (BFCC), began a partnership with YWCA to open Angeline’s Day Center, providing a place of shelter to homeless women during the day on weekdays.
For the next two years, Helen and the support group worked tirelessly to gather the resources and political will to do more to help women experiencing homelessness. No overnight shelter existed then for adult women on the Eastside and many women needed a place of safety until they could find a home of their own. On a cold winter night in December 2008, that vision was materialized in The Sophia Way – a hot shower, a meal, and a mat to sleep on the floor for the night, and a far greater and wider offering of support services to support them on the path to independence.
A fledgling board of directors sought out Eastside Interfaith Social Concerns Council (EISCC) to serve as the parent organization, allowing the board to begin fundraising in earnest. BFCC generously helped with space, reduced rent, and other support, and two individual BFCC parishioners donated the seed money needed to begin the new program. The Sophia Way was born, nearly two years from the date of the opening of Angeline’s Day Center.
In November 2012, the program moved to Sophia’s Place in the newly renovated basement of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Bellevue. This move improved the facilities, increased the capacity to 21 women each night, and continued the relationship with Angeline’s Day Center. In December 2012, The Sophia Way became an independent agency with its own 501(c)(3) status.
More than 500 women have passed through the doors of Sophia’s Place. With the help of Sophia Way case managers and the support of the community, many have found their way to living life independently in their own home.
Helen Leuzzi the founder of The Sophia Way came up with the name of the organization. Sophia is a female name derived from σοφία, the Greek word for “Wisdom”. It is the feminine personification of God’s Wisdom, and Way. Helen’s vision was that the “Way” is the pathway we seek to walk alongside the women in need to transition them from homelessness to independence.