Rick Steves, who is famous for his travel books and as a television personality focused on European travel, just donated a 24-unit apartment property in Lynnwood, Washington to house homeless women and their families.
Steves says he realized the importance of affordable housing early on during his travel adventures as a young man in Europe.
He described his personal backpacking trip as “Europe Through the Gutter,” a time when he was wandering teen embarking on the daily challenge of finding an affordable (no cost) place to sleep.
Using his rail pass, he’d sleep on trains, ferries, the pews of Greek churches, the concrete floors of Dutch construction projects, and in barns at the edge of the very un-affordable Swiss alpine resorts.
“How else would a white, middle-class American kid gain a firsthand appreciation for the value of a safe and comfortable place to sleep?”
A couple of decades ago, Steves came up with a scheme where he could put his retirement savings into cheap apartments that could house struggling neighbors, rather than dumping it in a bank to accrue interest.
“I would retain my capital, my equity would grow as the apartment complex appreciated,” Steves explained on his travel blog. “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.”
The 24-unit apartment complex began housing single moms who were recovering from drug addiction and were 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.”
Recently, he took the affordable housing project a step further by donating his 24-unit apartment complex to the local YWCA who will now be able to plan for the future, knowing that the facility is theirs to keep.
"It was a complete surprise," YWCA spokeswoman Annalee Schafranek said, adding the donation gives the organization the stability of ownership.
Affordable housing is a pet cause of Steves, who is also a big marijuana advocate. The 61-year-old said that in addition to aiding the homeless, he gave the property away because of the election of President Donald Trump and the rise of a new "greed-is-good ethic in our government."
Find out more in the video below: