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Spokane, local nonprofits reach goal to house more than 100 homeless teens, young adults

UPDATED: Mon., July 31, 2017, 10:26 p.m.

More than 100 young people previously without a home in Spokane have found housing this summer with the help of nonprofit groups and City Hall, the city announced Monday.

Spokane bested its benchmark of finding housing for 100 young homeless residents in 100 days, unfurling a banner outside City Hall indicating 102 people had been served as of Friday, the end of the campaign. But city officials and representatives of assisting agencies like SNAP, Catholic Charities and the Excelsior Youth Center said the work would continue though the calendar has turned.

“Our goal was to reach 100 youth, but we didn’t look at it from the perspective of just reaching a number over the last few months,” said Mayor David Condon. “We looked at it as a stepping stone to a higher goal.”

Additional services, such as job training and family counseling, will be provided to those who received housing during the campaign, said Tija Danzig, the city’s manager of programs for the homeless.

Volunteers prepared baskets full of housewarming essentials, including toilet paper, silverware, cleaning supplies and toiletries during the event Monday, which will be given to those moving in to new housing arranged through a partnership between the city and social service agencies.

“This is not just about housing,” Danzig said. “We’re providing wraparound services. We wanted to ensure these youth had all the services they needed.”

Workers estimated enough baskets were assembled Monday for each of the campaign’s recipients to receive a share. More baskets had been donated at Spokane Housing Authority, another agency assisting with the project, Danzig said.

The effort was organized at the state level by A Way Home Washington, a group dedicated to ending youth homelessness, with financial assistance from the Schultz Family Foundation, founded by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and the Raikes Foundation, another Western Washington nonprofit.

Pierce and King counties reported successful housing for an additional 330 people through July 20, the most recent date for which data was available.

A Way Home Washington reports that roughly 13,000 unaccompanied minors use homeless shelters and services statewide each year, and a recent report by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness ranks Washington’s homeless student population as the eighth-highest in the country. A point-in-time count of those using Spokane’s shelter services in January counted 71 unaccompanied people under the age of 24. Seventeen of those people were under age 18.

Condon said the city would learn from its work during the campaign to continue to provide services to a population that is sometimes difficult for social workers to reach. That includes collecting information about those seeking services into a database that can match those who are homeless with the help they need, Condon said.

“We know the units that are open, and those that are seeking help,” the mayor said. The goal, he said, is to end the need among the homeless to go from “one place, to the next to the next, trying to figure out where the resources are,” Condon said.

Danzig said the city would take the lessons from the 100 Day challenge and make their request to developers to build a transitional service center specifically geared to teenagers and young adults.

“We need a shelter for 18-to-24-year-olds,” Danzig said. “This will help inform what that pitch will look like.”

The city could make its case for such a location as early as December, Danzig said.

As part of the initiative, the city also received a $50,000 grant to compensate landlords accepting previously homeless tenants to cover potential damage or lost rent while residents look for jobs and adapt to permanent housing. Matt Davis, with the city’s Community, Housing and Human Services Department, said that money should eliminate some of the hesitancy from property owners.

“There are a lot of resources. We just need to the landlords to take a chance on our youth,” Davis said.


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