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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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South Perry Blog

Help for homeless families

The South Perry Blog spent the morning with staff, volunteers and friends of Interfaith Hospitality of Spokane, which is located at the Richard Allen Apartments. Executive director Madelyn Bafus explained that Interfaith is all about the child.

"We help the family in the way it presents itself, but we are all about the child," Bafus said. "If it's good for the child, we all about that." Interfaith is not a traditional drop-in shelter, it's more like a rotating shelter. Twelve churches of different denominations, located across Spokane, take turns providing shelter for Interfaith's families one week at a time.

"The families are at the church over night, then come back to the day center or go to school during the day," Bafus explained. Interfaith provides roll-out beds that are transported from church to church. "We help between 20 and 25 families every year," said Bafus. "We usually have a waiting list but we actually have an opening right now." Interfaith doesn't charge anything and families can stay with the organization for three months. "But we never turn someone out to homelessness," Bafus said.

One client is Bridget and her four children. She came to Spokane 15 months ago, in an effort to escape a stalking and abusive ex-husband. "We arrived on Amtrak with four kids, 18 bags clothing and one bag of favorite toys for everyone," said Bridget. "I had a plan, but perhaps not the best thought out plan." Bridget had her tax refund and was planning to find a place to live in Spokane, using that money for a security deposit and the first three months of rent. That didn't quite work out and soon she'd spent what she had on living in hotels. "We had no history here, no rental history. Landlords wanted to know about employment, it wasn't enough that I had rent for three months," she said. Bridget found Interfaith and can't say enough good things about the help she got there. "They were with us every step of the way," Bridget said. She learned about and joined programs run by SNAP, Career Path Services and many other local non-profits. Eventually the family found housing and now Bridget is in a much better position to pursue the next goal: "I really want to get a job - that is the next step. And I also give back to Interfaith whenever I can."

Doug Beane is the co-coordinator of Interfaith Hospitality at St. John's Cathedral. "I think the program runs very smoothly," Beane said. "The most challenging part is pulling together a roster of reliable volunteers, but we got that now." Volunteers provide a warm dinner for the families at the church, and cold breakfast items in the mornings. The church also have two over-night hosts staying with the families. "It's one week at a time, Sunday to Sunday, and how it works out depends on how many people we have," Beane said. "It's often more busy before the families get there, with cleaning up and getting ready and all that."

Bafus said they always need new churches to join the non-profit: "There is a need out there and we try to meet it, one family at a time. We can always use help from another church."

Pia Hallenberg
Pia Hallenberg joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. She is currently a reporter for the City Desk covering Spokane Valley city hall and community news. She also writes news features about people and events.

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