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Family Promise wants to help Spokane Valley homeless

Family Promise plans to purchase this home at 904 E. Hartson Ave., in the South Perry District.
Family Promise plans to purchase this home at 904 E. Hartson Ave., in the South Perry District.

Family Promise of Spokane is expanding, and needs to raise about $10,000 more so it can purchase its own building in the South Perry District.

The extra space will allow Family Promise to serve up to 15 families from Spokane Valley. Executive director Steve Allen said people don’t realize homelessness is a problem in Spokane Valley, which is why his organization is trying to help.

“What we’re hoping to do is offer a day center that would enable us to provide space, extra rooms for families to have a personal spot to go to during the day … it will have three showers … and what we’re most excited about,” he said, “is that it will give us room to grow.”

Last school year nearly 800 Spokane Valley students were homeless or living in transitional housing, according to the HEART – or Homeless Education and Resource Team – Program.

One organization, Hearth Homes, provides transitional housing for women and children in Spokane Valley. But there is no emergency homeless shelter in the Valley and HUD housing is limited. Homeless families often end up in Spokane shelters – mothers and children in one, and dad in a separate facility, or maybe even sleeping in a car.

Family Promise, which strives to keep families together and out of homelessness, works with 12 to 15 Spokane families at a time. The new, bigger building at 904 E. Hartson Ave. would allow them to double their capacity and work with up to 15 additional Spokane Valley families.

According to its website, Family Promise is a nonprofit organization committed to helping low-income families achieve lasting independence.

Currently Family Promise has an undersized day center in the South Perry District where up to 12 families – children, mothers and fathers – share one shower and one living space. In the evening, the families are sent to partnering churches to have a meal and sleep.

“Our niche is that we’re a small program going deep with a few and really making lasting changes to help them overcome the barriers that got them into homelessness,” Allen said. “We want to still keep it small, but double our program.”

In 2008, Jenniffer Cooke went from living in a 3,000-square-foot home in the Camelot neighborhood to living in a tent with her three children and then husband. Family Promise helped her climb out of homelessness, and now she serves on the organization’s board.

“The focus (at Family Promise) is on the children. Whatever the makeup of that family is, that’s the family, and they’re continually supporting the kids and making sure their needs are met,” Cooke said. “Other shelters separate men. There’s a lot of tearing apart the family structure when they’re already in a crisis situation. That’s not a benefit to the family or children.”

She and her children have been in a permanent house for more than three years, with Family Promise’s help.

She said she was surprised to learn the number of homeless children in Spokane Valley and said the number of donors who are stepping up to help Family Promise reach those families is staggering.

“It just affirms that that’s where we need to go,” she said.

For a down payment on the building, Family Promise needed to raise $30,000, plus an additional $5,000 for minor renovations. They’ve raised most of it and the building’s current owner is allowing Family Promise to close on the building next week. The organization still needs to raise $5,000 for the remainder of the down payment and an additional $3,000 to $5,000 for minor renovations.

Allen’s dream, he said, is for Family Promise to begin serving Spokane Valley families by January.

Soon Family Promise will start seeking partners in the Valley. They are looking for host churches to house families for one week at a time every quarter, as well as families to prepare a meal every quarter.

The Greater Valley Support Network is working with Family Promise to reach Spokane Valley churches, said MJ Bolt, a GVSN volunteer.

She’s hopeful that volunteers in the Valley will offer to help Family Promise when the time comes.

“There’s such a need right here in our own backyard. The faith community wants to do stuff, but sometimes doesn’t know what to do to help,” she said. “Family Promise is something they can be sure of. They’ve got this down and they’re working on it every day.”