There is a home in a part of the Spokane Valley that has seen better days, a home where poor, forgotten people have found a safe place to rest along their dangerous journey.
They bring little with them but the shards of their shattered pasts and perhaps an addiction or mental illness.
There to embrace these homeless people is Evie Crossman, a 57-year-old woman who lives on disability in a deteriorating two-bedroom home built in 1889.
In the past seven years, Crossman estimated she has taken in 45 people, including the mother and adult son currently staying with her who asked to remain anonymous.
“Simply by the grace of God they end up coming here,” Crossman said. “I don’t go out looking for them.”
Word of mouth brings them, said Michael Johnson, a homeless former houseguest and landscaper who occasionally does odd jobs for Crossman.
“Sometimes they pay rent, and sometimes they leave owing her,” Johnson said of Crossman’s houseguests.
Johnson, a 48-year-old poet, said he would do anything to help Crossman, but he couldn’t keep living in her home because of the rules, specifically the one about no drinking.
“We started with six rules,” Crossman said, “but now there are 23, all in writing. Each time someone leaves I find myself adding another one.”
Enforcing them hasn’t always been easy, she said, particularly when a houseguest falls off the wagon or off his medications. Occasionally, a neighbor has complained when one of them broke another of her rules, no profanity.
Then there are the rules Crossman applies to herself, which can be summarized in the lyrics of her favorite hymn:
“We are called to act with justice. We are called to love tenderly. We are called to serve one another and to walk humbly with God.”
Crossman said she learned charity from her father, a former Central Valley High School teacher who used to bring people in need of help into the home the family has owned since 1955.
“People would say, ‘If it wasn’t for him, I would have gone down the wrong path,’ ” recalled Crossman.
She’d like to say that her houseguests have all taken the right path when they left her home, but she knows it’s not true.
“Sometimes their situations have improved,” she said. “Sometimes they are back on the street.”
Perhaps sometimes it’s a little of both.
Johnson remains homeless, but he feels he’s better off for having known Crossman, who encourages him not to drink so much he can’t keep writing poetry, and to help others he encounters along his journey.
“I don’t feel like I’m homeless,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’m camping.”
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