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Grants to help homeless hitting target

Tue., Aug. 7, 2007

For almost half a century the House of Charity offered overnight lodging to homeless men during the winter months. In the summer, though, a lack of funding forced the Catholic Charities shelter to close its doors to men seeking a place to sleep.

This May, $102,000 changed that.

The House of Charity shelter was one of 14 Spokane programs to receive new funding designed to help the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless.

“We thought we might have 25 to 30 men a night, but we’ve been averaging over 100 guys a night over the summer,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director Rob McCann.

The shelter is almost as full now as it is in the winter, nearly reaching its 108-man capacity.

“The homeless population in Spokane is even bigger than any of us thought. There’s a need for services,” McCann said.

The city of Spokane disbursed $650,000 for the first year of Washington’s Homeless Housing Assistance Act.

The money is raised through a $10 surcharge on all real estate transactions in the county. The city will begin accepting applications at the end of the month for another $650,000 in 2008 funding.

First-year recipients are putting the grants to good use, said Spokane Social Services Director Jerrie Allard.

The House of Charity is open year-round, Goodwill Industries is helping more homeless people find employment, the YWCA is offering more housing and services to homeless youth, and other social service providers are beefing up rental and utility assistance programs.

“This is new money to the community,” Allard said.

Of the housing surcharge money raised in Spokane County, 60 percent goes toward programs here; 40 percent goes to the state, which distributes it for homeless programs in a statewide competitive process.

Local programs must further the goals of Spokane’s regional 10-year plan to address homelessness.

Almost $50,000 was granted this year to Goodwill to help train homeless people for employment and to help them find jobs.

Goodwill had a goal of finding 10 people permanent employment this year.

It’s already exceeded that, with 22 people placed in jobs, said program manager Jack Lilienthal. Of those, two-thirds are now in their own housing.

“Most of them were living in shelters or cars,” Lilienthal said.

Recently, a couple who had found jobs through Goodwill returned to use the computer.

“They were holding hands, looking for an apartment,” Lilienthal said.

“With their jobs they were able to save enough money for their own place.”

Lilienthal credits the Homeless Housing Assistance Act funding for his program’s increased success. Without it, some would not have found work, he said.

“There’s no way I could have handled this many people,” he said.

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