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Social services worker honored

Fri., Aug. 22, 2008

Peeler helped place low-income residents

A social services worker was honored for his role in finding homes for about 260 of Spokane’s poorest residents displaced by downtown gentrification.

The deeds of Bob Peeler, an employee of Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs, were entered into the Congressional Record by 5th District U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who attended a ceremony for Peeler on Thursday during the dedication of a low-income housing project in east Spokane.

McMorris Rodgers presented Peeler with the honor “in recognition of his tireless efforts to find housing for displaced people downtown” and his “daily resolve to improve the quality of life for those not as fortunate as the rest.”

In 2007, Peeler led a team of social services providers in relocating more than 200 people displaced by the proposed renovation of three downtown Spokane apartment buildings – the Otis, the New Madison and the Commercial – by for-profit corporations.

The task of the home-finding team was particularly difficult because many of the residents had criminal records, mental health problems or poor rental histories.

Further complicating the effort was a vacancy rate among Spokane rental properties of just 1.6 percent for one-bedroom apartments and 1.2 percent for studio units, according to a survey by the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium.

In April, another 45 low-income residents found themselves facing homelessness when it was announced that financial problems would force the closure of the Martindale Apartments in Spokane’s Hillyard neighborhood.

Peeler and his team again sprang into action, finding homes for all of the Martindale tenants.

“Bob has served the homeless community for over 20 years,” said his boss, Jennifer Martin, SNAP homeless coordinator. “He goes under the bridges, on the street, connecting with people that others have forgotten.”

The tribute to Peeler came during the dedication of Riverwalk Point II, 4915 E. Upriver Dr., which will provide community housing for 50 low-income families.

Yet affordable housing remains a problem in Spokane, Peeler and others attending the ceremony said.

Today, Peeler is again trying to secure housing for about 10 percent to 15 percent of those former downtown residents.

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