Volunteers are preparing a Spokane Valley home this month to fill a regional housing gap for teenage mothers, said Holly Haneke, director of GraceSon Housing Foundation.
The nonprofit, which is renting the five-bedroom house, plans to open this fall with support and living quarters for three teenagers and their babies.
“Ideally, we’d like to open in September,” Haneke said. “We are a faith-based organization, and we tell the girls come as you are, but we want it to be a home where they feel God’s love for them. We’re meeting them where they’re at.”
Founded in 2012, GraceSon collaborates with YoungLives Spokane, an agency that provides support and advocacy for teen moms. GraceSon formed after volunteers who were providing shelter in their own homes saw a lack of transitional housing options in Spokane for moms between the ages of 13 and 15 beyond 90-days postpartum, Haneke said.
“There really isn’t a place for girls in Spokane if they fall between the ages of 13 and 16,” Haneke added. “One thing that makes us unique in the gap we’re trying to fill is we’ll take girls as young as 13. There is not a home right now in Spokane who will take girls that young who are parenting babies.”
“Another thing that sets us apart is right now we will consider placement of girls who have more than one child.”
Haneke said GraceSon will focus on a holistic approach – addressing physical, emotional, relational and spiritual needs – in helping the girls who typically come from environments of poverty, alcoholism, drugs, physical abuse and neglect. GraceSon plans to allow teen moms to stay in the Valley home for as long as they’re continuing with their education.
“These girls come from tough backgrounds,” Haneke said. “A lot of the girls we see have kind of raised themselves.”
“Because these kids are kids, we’d like to see them stay as long as they’re going to school. We want to dive into the heart issues and some of the struggles the girls have endured, because unless you deal with those wounds and heart issues, it’s hard for change to occur.”
Currently, GraceSon is filling the home with furniture and seeking to hire a house parent. The nonprofit raised $85,000 at a February fundraiser to open the home, Haneke said. It is continuing to raise funds and seek volunteer help.
“We’re looking at an estimated budget of about $125,000 a year for the cost of housing, and to run the program,” she said.
In the home, one bedroom is a downstairs apartment designed for the house parent – or parents, if a couple is hired. Another room is set up for a respite volunteer caretaker who will stay when the house parent has time off.
When the home opens, Haneke said the nonprofit will pay a part-time program director to provide case management for the residents, such as finding medical care and parenting resources. The teens who receive state assistance income likely will pay a small amount toward rent monthly as they’re learning self-sufficiency, Haneke added.
“I think they’ll pay around $200 a month and that includes everything, the food and housing, so they have money left over at the end of the month,” she said. “They’re wanting to learn how to live independently.”
GraceSon volunteers originally planned to build a home on donated property in the Hillyard area, and Haneke said there’s still the potential to do that. Haneke previously worked at Union Gospel Mission, and earlier this year, she sought advice from that nonprofit’s director, Phil Altmeyer. He suggested that GraceSon start on a smaller scale and build community awareness, she said.
“He gave us some really good advice,” Haneke said.
In the past few years, YoungLives volunteers including Haneke have opened their homes to a few of the teen moms. Haneke and her family live in Liberty Lake. She said the girls staying in the new GraceSon house will have closer access to public transportation and schools.