The place was trashed.
Holes marred the walls and the floors, the door had been kicked in, the paint was chipping, and the worn, stained carpet needed to be replaced.
Still, for a Spokane couple struggling with homelessness, addiction and multiple medical issues, it’s an oasis.
A team of volunteers spent today sanding, spackling, drilling and hammering to repair the run-down duplex for Kathryn Lewis and Tim Boit.
“We’re just trying to get everything cleaned up,” said Stan Campbell, a coordinator with the nonprofit Project HOPE. “At least make it livable.”
Lewis and Boit were homeless just weeks ago. They have slept out in the cold, under bridges, in parks and in homeless shelters.
“We had to keep on the move,” Boit said. “It was a nightmare.”
Their journey to get off the streets and back on their feet began at First Covenant Church. Two church members, who have asked to remain anonymous, had an empty rental property, so they asked Pastor Rob Bryceson if he knew anyone trustworthy who could use it.
Lewis and Boit were the first people that came to his mind.
Lewis is battling ovarian cancer and suffers from debilitating epileptic seizures, which have been striking with increasing frequency.
Boit is currently undergoing treatment for a back injury he sustained when he fell through a railing and down some stairs a year and a half ago.
He has not been able to work since the accident and needs a medical release from his neurosurgeon before he can look for a job, he said.
Boit, who is a recovering drug addict, first became homeless after he went through a bad divorce. Over the past five years, he rented on and off, but spent much of his time on the streets.
“I just gave up hope,” he said.
Boit has now been clean for three years.
Lewis, an alcoholic, had gotten sober but relapsed five months ago while living in a clean and sober house. She decided to move out on the streets and hoped hitting rock bottom would help her kick her habit.
It did, she said.
The couple was trying to save money to get into a place where Lewis could recover from cancer surgery. Their only income is from disability payments and veterans’ benefits – although she has Medicaid. Because they lacked a sound rental history, they planned to stay in a motel during her recovery.
Instead, they’re moving into the west Spokane duplex, even though it had been damaged by the previous tenants.
Bryceson called Campbell to see if he would be interested in helping clean up the place through Project HOPE.
“This is what we do,” Campbell said. “We help people who are in need of help to have a decent place to live. We’re trying to give them as good of a start as we can.”
Project HOPE gets a discount on materials through an arrangement with Habitat for Humanity. The cost of the materials, which Bryceson estimated will be about $1,000, will be paid for by private donations.
“Nobody here is paid,” Campbell said. “We try to make every dollar we get stretch.”
The help is not just a handout and tenants are encouraged to pitch in where they can, he said.
“It’s not about charity,” he said. “It’s about helping people. We try to get the people who live here involved so they have a vested interest.”
Lewis and Boit will pay rent for their new home in the future, but for now the landlords say they will give them credit for all the repairs.
“Even if the church wasn’t involved, we would still have to do this ourselves, but we would be doing the work little by little, because we couldn’t afford to do it all at once,” Lewis said.
Boit and Lewis said they are both grateful for the help they have received, which has given them another chance at life.
“I feel like I’m going in the right direction,” Boit said. “I was broke and homeless for quite a long time.”