Photo: Rick Steves

Legendary local travel guide Rick Steves demonstrated this week that he’s as generous as he is worldly. Steves purchased a 24-unit apartment property in Lynwood several years ago as an investment that could also help the community. The YWCA, with assistance from the Edmonds Noon Rotary Club, uses the building to operate Trinity Place, a transitional housing space for homeless women and children. Steves recently decided to deed the property over to the YWCA, free of charge.

“Twenty years ago, I devised a scheme where I could put my retirement savings not into a bank to get interest, but into cheap apartments to house struggling neighbors. I would retain my capital, my equity would grow as the apartment complex appreciated, and I would suffer none of the headaches that I would have if I had rented out the units as a landlord,” wrote Steves 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 apartments are situated near Lynnwood’s city center, within walking distance of bus lines and central shopping, the Lynnwood Public Library, the police and fire departments, a community health center, city parks, a recreation center and Edmonds Community College. Tenants of Trinity Place can access free family law services, mental health care, employment assistance and other resources through the complex.

“To me, this wasn’t particularly noble or compassionate…it was just thoughtful use of my capital,” wrote Steves. “Working with the YWCA and the Rotary Club of Edmonds, we publicized this creative way of putting a fortunate person’s retirement nest egg to work in a powerful way in hopes that others would be inspired to do the same in their communities.”

For years Steves has guided fumbling American tourists to the mosques of Iran, the green spaces of Croatia and roadside bagpipe players of Scotland. Now, spurred on by the hostility of the current political climate, he’s using his prominence in the eyes of American travelers to guide their philanthropic efforts.

“The gap between rich and poor in our country continues to widen. And I believe needs — such as affordable housing — will only increase as budget cuts are implemented,” wrote Steves. “Organizations like the YWCA will need to pick up the slack. If our country truly wants to be great, we need creative thinking connected with our hearts. And it’s my hope that love and compassion can trump values of crass commercialism, greed, and ‘winners’ beating ‘losers’.”

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