October 10, 2008 in City

Reaching out to family in need

With shelters in area full, woman steps up
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

Chrystie Thatcher, Kamrin, 12, Tom Zinn, Mariah, 8, and Ocean, 11 months, are homeless and living in a motel with the help of Eunice Moore, right.
(Full-size photo)

To help

Call Eunice Morse, (509) 475-3855

For families in need, there are government agencies, there are charities and then there are a few people like Eunice Morse – maybe too few.

When a family sought refuge in Spokane recently, they fell through the community’s safety net. There to catch them was Morse, a member of the Central Seventh Day Adventist Church.

“That’s what God would want,” said Morse, 60.

She often sits in the foyer of her church at 828 W. Spofford Ave., where she welcomes new congregants. A month ago, Chrystie Thatcher’s family walked through the door. The 43-year-old woman had spent everything she had to get to Spokane with her two daughters and two granddaughters.

There was no money left over for a motel, and there were no vacancies at local homeless shelters, so Morse invited them to stay with her – Thatcher; her daughters Lorin, 18, and Kamrin, 12; her granddaughter Mariah, 8; and Lorin’s 11-month-old daughter Ocean.

When Thatcher was joined this week by her husband, Tom Zinn, Morse put four of the family members up in an inexpensive Airway Heights motel, keeping only Lorin and the baby in her modest home.

Morse helped Thatcher enroll Kamrin and Mariah in public school. Thatcher’s husband, a roofer by trade, is looking for employment. Meanwhile, they have called every social service agency in town searching for temporary housing.

The Salvation Army’s Family Emergency shelter, the only one that accepts couples, has a waiting list. Some shelters have wait times of up to six months, and others require a referral even if there were an opening. Morse has filled three pages of a notebook with the names, addresses and phone numbers of agencies that so far have been unable to help.

“You have to be in a program to get into a program,” Morse complained.

Frustrated, Morse offers advice to people contributing to these agencies: “Make sure the money they are giving is really opening doors for people in need.”

Thatcher’s family came to Spokane from Yuba City, Calif., in search of sanctuary after the criminal justice system failed them.

In August 2001, Thatcher’s 19-year-old daughter, Erin, was shot in the neck by Dajuan Martelle Williams, the father of her unborn baby, according to reports in Yuba City’s local newspaper, where Morse worked in the mailroom.

Erin – in a coma from which she would never recover – was kept on life support until her child was born in January 2002. Erin died the following month. Family friends adopted the baby, and Thatcher took Erin’s other child, Mariah, who was 1 year old when her mother was shot.

Williams, who had faced a murder charge, pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to six years in prison. Despite the state’s promise to the family that he would not be paroled into the community, Williams was released in Yuba City.

When Thatcher saw her daughter’s killer on the street, she called the parole officer and reminded him of the state’s promise.

“You’re right, he wasn’t supposed to be paroled here,” the officer told her. She never heard from the officer again.

So Thatcher gathered up what remained of her family and fled in fear. A family friend who had lived in Spokane recommended she head to the Inland Northwest and seek help at the friend’s former church, Central Seventh Day Adventist. There Thatcher found Morse.

“We came to Spokane because we heard it was a good place,” Thatcher said. “But we can’t rely on Eunice to do everything.”

Morse, who lives on Social Security, has paid the family’s motel bill until today and is trying to scrape a little money together for another week’s stay.

“No matter what you have, you can always share it with somebody,” Morse said. “Maybe that’s why God brought all this to light.”

Contact Kevin Graman at kevingr@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5433.

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