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Then and Now: House of Charity

UPDATED: Mon., July 10, 2017, 12:02 a.m.

Catholics in Spokane formed the Catholic Social Betterment League in 1912, bringing together people from eight parishes to tackle social needs. They wanted to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and help the elderly and sick.

In the early 1940s, many disparate programs were brought together as Catholic Charities of Spokane, a nonprofit corporation that would keep track of the many avenues of ministry. There were family and child services, food pantries and soup kitchens, though the breadth of the work was just starting to grow.

In 1958, Bishop Bernard Topel invited Brother Martin, a young Franciscan brother who had started a House of Charity in Minneapolis, to come to Spokane and start a shelter for down-and-out men in an old rooming house on Havermale Island.

Brother Martin and other members of the Brothers of Charity remodeled the building and opened a new House of Charity for Spokane’s homeless. The old building had 60 beds for overnight stays. Hundreds received food and shelter each day, though the HOC struggled with day-to-day funding, eventually accepting some grants from the city and other entities.

In that same era, CCS outreach expanded. St. Margaret’s Hall was opened for homeless women in 1961. Catholic Family Service oversaw foster children programs and adoptions since 1962. Today, St. Anne’s Children and Family Center provides child care for young children and their families.

Beginning in the 1970s, CCS invested in real estate, opening several apartment buildings for the elderly and disabled. The church operated two community centers which acted as hubs for social service agencies.

In the late 60s, planning for Expo ’74 was in full swing and the church sold the old motel to the city for $75,000 to clear the land. The money wasn’t enough to build a new facility, so CCS opened a temporary drop-in center at 35 W. Trent Ave., then moved to a larger facility at 9 West Main Ave. around 1975. In 2000, the current House of Charity opened on Pacific Avenue and Browne Street.


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