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Community help lets shelter reopen

North Idaho nonprofit allows families to stay together

After taking a two-month hiatus to raise money, a North Idaho nonprofit organization that shelters homeless families for up to 90 days will be back in business on Sunday.

When Family Promise put out the call that a funding shortfall would close its doors, the community responded. Its annual Cardboard Box City fundraiser, in which community members get a small taste of what it’s like to be homeless by staying overnight in cardboard boxes, raised some $12,000. In addition, an anonymous donor kicked in $10,000, and business partners including Coeur d’Alene Mines, Windermere Real Estate, North Idaho Eye Institute and Pita Pit helped out.

That means that starting Sunday, three homeless families will once again be housed by the network of 16 churches that participate in the nonprofit organization. The churches take turns housing and feeding the families for a week at a time, with each family having its own room. Family Promise delivers rollaway beds and other amenities.

During the day, the families stay at Family Promise’s day center at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 501 E. Wallace Ave., in downtown Coeur d’Alene. There, they receive help finding jobs and housing and other counseling through social service providers in the area, said Cindy Wood, Family Promise’s director.

“Family homelessness is the fastest-rising segment of homelessness in the U.S.,” Wood said. “When you’re in the most difficult time in your life, financially, you don’t want to separate your family. It really adds to the mental anguish.”

During the hiatus, two part-time workers were furloughed, and Wood’s salary was reduced to 85 percent.

Family Promise can serve up to 14 people at a time, and more than half the children are younger than age 5, Wood said. During the sheltering, school-age children are able to continue attending their regular school, she said.

“We have a really great success rate,” Wood said. “The people who come out of our program do really well.”

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