There’s nearly an unlimited number of things you can do when you have abundant resources. Many find it difficult not to lose sight of what is truly important when given access to dollar amounts in the millions. But for Rick Steves, investing in the community is what’s most important.
You might recognize Steves from his various television appearances on PBS. The 62-year-old rose to popularity as the titular host of Rick Steves’ Europe. The program debuted in 2000 and ran new episodes as recently as 2016. He has produced nine seasons in total.
For someone who has devoted his time and energy to exploring the world abroad, he has a remarkable understanding of fostering community at home.
Rather than live extravagantly, travel writer Rick Steves puts his money towards the community.
When the time came for Steves to invest his hard-earned dollars, he took an unconventional approach. Rather than gamble on Wall Street or turn it over to a stockbroker, Steves purchased an apartment housing complex for $4.2 million. But he had more in mind than becoming a landlord.
Instead of renting out the individual units of the apartment complex, he turned all of the units into homes for single mothers who needed help. At the complex called Trinity Place, as many as 70 residents who would otherwise be homeless have a safe place to rest their heads at night.
But Trinity Place didn’t happen overnight. Steves first became interested in providing affordable housing to the underprivileged in the 1980s. As his own personal wealth grew, he was able to take his ambitions to provide affordable housing more seriously.
After several attempts to locate a suitable location, having building projects tied up and halted by zoning laws, as well as fighting toxic mold, Steves finally found and purchased the location for Trinity Place in 2005. After renovations, families started moving in by Thanksgiving of that year.
“To think, when I found this place, it was just a moldy haunted house. But I thought, ‘There’s God in that mold!'”
The 24-unit complex has operated at almost full capacity ever since it opened. With good access to public transit, groceries, and Edmonds Community College, the facility couldn’t be handier for families in transition.
Trinity Place has proven itself to be a cost-effective living arrangement for those in need. All of the units are rent-free to the residents, but Rick insists he isn’t doing anything saintly. Instead, he redirects the attention to supporting mothers recovering from abuse or drug addiction.
Take Tamara, for example. Just a year ago, she was homeless and her kids were in foster care. Thanks to Rick Steves and Trinity Place, she was able to get her life back on track. Without it, she doesn’t know where she’d be.
“It’s been a Godsend,” Tamara said. “It means being able to be a mom again and having my kids with me.”
For its first 11 years, Steves ran Trinity Place as its owner, accruing wealth on the equity of the property and securing his financial future while doing good for the community. The facility was managed and maintained through partnerships with the Rotary Club and the YWCA Seattle King Snohomish.
Steves always had plans to leave the facility to the YWCA in his will, until a recent change of heart. After careful consideration, he donated the facility to the organization outright at the end of 2016.
He says he decided to make the donation now rather than when he “kicks the bucket,” because he wanted to experience the joy of handing over Trinity Place to the YWCA while he was still alive.
Steves hopes to inspire others to think creatively about how to make America a more genuinely compassionate place.
Steves insists that you don’t have to spend $4 million dollars to make the world a better place. It’s about investing in people and lending a hand whatever way you can.
For the residents at Trinity Place who were given a second chance, they’ll always be thankful for Rick Steves’ generosity.