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New building named after one of its founders, Sylvia Odom

Plymouth Housing Group offers permanent supportive housing.

Thirty-six years ago, Sylvia Odom was one of the founding members of Plymouth Housing Group, formed by members of Plymouth UCC in Seattle. 

Brigitta Remole, pastor at Plymouth, is with Sylvia Odom, second from left, a founding member  of the Plymouth Housing Group, Paul Lambros, PHG executive director, and Catherine Colwell, Plymouth member and widow of David Colwell, who was senior minister and played a key role in the efforts to form the PHG.                  Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Housing Group

On. Feb. 11, there is an open house at the 65-unit building, which will be called Sylvia Odom’s Place in honor of her work with the program.  It is the 14th building the group has built.

Ground breaking for this $17 million facility, which meets Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards, was in September 2014.  People will begin moving in on Feb. 16.

Its modern studio apartments will be for low-income adults whose long-term success with round-the-clock support services in other Plymouth Housing Group buildings has equipped them for more independent living.

Caseworkers will identify skills tenants can develop and will connect them with volunteers to teach those skills.

When these tenants move into more independent living at Sylvia’s Odom’s Place, their apartments will be available for others to move into from shelters or off the streets for the intensive services those units provide, said Lynn Beck, chief development officer with the Plymouth Housing Group (PHG).

The ground floor will house two retail spaces, adding to 21 commercial tenants in Plymouth’s portfolio.

Throughout the years, Sylvia has continued to volunteer for PHG, which provides housing with 24/7 support services to its nearly 1,000 formerly homeless tenants.

In 1980 when Sylvia chaired the Plymouth Congregational UCC’s Mission and Community Service Board, she helped create and chaired a housing task force. That task force, which was to provide affordable housing for homeless people in downtown Seattle, became a separate nonprofit, the Plymouth Housing Group.

Sylvia, the daughter of a sharecropper in Archie, La., grew up in a home made of sticks and mud during the Great Depression and World War II.  Sharecropping, she said, was “slavery in disguise.” 

Her father always had food to share from his garden.  Her mother modeled kindness and adjusted to what life brought.

While “being poor is living at the bottom of the pit with no place to go, I always hoped tomorrow would bring new answers and solutions.  I never gave up.  I was always hopeful someone would lift me up.  So I continue to live in hope that things will change,” she said.

An uncle made it possible for her to have an education. She attended Alcorn A&M University in Lorman, Miss.

After graduating, she joined her sister and brother-in law, who was stationed in the Navy in Bremerton.  Over the years, her siblings and parents moved to Bremerton and Seattle.

Sylvia did student teaching to be certified to teach and spent 32 years teaching elementary school in the Highline School District of West Seattle, where she lived with her husband, son and daughter.  She worked in school administration several years before retiring. In 2007, she moved into Horizon House.

Her son’s first grade teacher had invited her to the adult forum at Plymouth.  Sylvia continued attending and became active in the church.

Sylvia served on the Plymouth Housing Group board until 1984 and was involved with half a dozen affordable housing projects. She has continued to volunteer since then.

The PHG’s first project was to preserve the Seven Seas Hotel as apartment housing.

In 1987, it leased the Payne Apartments, setting aside the first units for Northwest AIDS Foundation clients.

The Gatewood project in 1991 was the first total apartment building rehab.

Lynn said PHG’s vision is to eliminate homelessness through providing permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless people.

“At Plymouth, we follow the Housing First model,” she said, “bringing in single adults who are homeless because of mental illness, trauma, substance use disorders, medical needs and disabilities.  Most are chronically homeless.”

Many of the people are disabled. With Plymouth’s “wraparound” support, they have gained housing stability.

“We wanted to name our newest project in honor of someone who has made a major contribution to Plymouth Housing Group,” said PHG executive director Paul Lambros.  “Not only was Sylvia key in our founding, but also she remains involved with PHG. There was no other contender.”

For information, call 206-374-9409 x143 or visit


Copyright © February 2016 - Pacific Northwest Conference News




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