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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Pacific NW

Fundraiser gives Moscow shelter a ray of hope

By Chelsea Embree Lewiston Tribune

In perhaps its greatest time of need, Sojourners’ Alliance in Moscow had “the biggest fundraising event in (its) history” this past month.

The region’s only homeless shelter that serves single men has been laboring to secure its financial future since news last spring that a $102,000 federal grant would not be renewed. The statewide Avenues for Hope fundraiser has brought the shelter about $42,000 closer to the funding it needs, according to fundraiser results announced Thursday.

“It was an incredible fundraising event – just absolutely incredible for us,” said Steve Bonnar, Sojourners’ executive director. “We’re quite pleased with that.”

Bonnar also announced Thursday that the shelter is set to start admitting new residents Jan. 31 after a new case manager was hired this week.

Residents of the shelter’s transitional housing program moved out and the shelter closed in September after a loss of funding for the program that provided shelter to families and individuals for as long as they needed to secure incomes and permanent residence. The transitional housing program also offered additional services as needed, including treatment for mental health conditions and substance abuse.

Sojourners’ administrative offices reopened last month to clean and organize the office, continue fundraising and make necessary repairs to the shelter to meet housing-quality standards.

Bonnar set a goal of raising $125,000 to operate the shelter for a year. Agencies including Latah County, the city of Moscow and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare have pledged funds to Sojourners’.

The Idaho Department of Correction also has pledged enough money to fill the shelter’s housing for individuals – a total of 16 beds. Bonnar had said that housing only felons is “not ideal,” but accepted the funding in December.

The Avenues for Hope fundraiser, managed by a division of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, brought in about twice as much money as it has in years past, Bonnar said. That means he may not need as much funding from the corrections department, he said, and may be able to open up eight beds for use by anyone in the community facing homelessness.

“We’re solid,” Bonnar said. “I still would like to have some reserves, too. I’m just amazed by the generosity of our community and the giving that we’ve received.”

With the additional $42,000 – of which Sojourners’ will keep about $39,000, after taxes for credit cards are applied – Bonnar said the shelter has raised $96,000. An anonymous donor also has contributed $25,000 to Sojourners’ specifically so the shelter can repair a damaged family unit and replace its water line.

Bonnar is reaching out to other agencies for additional donations, but he said the funds from the Idaho Department of Correction are a “safety net” that will be ongoing into the future. Between the corrections department and the Department of Health and Welfare, Bonnar said, the shelter is guaranteed about $100,000 annually.

When the shelter reopens at the end of the month, Bonnar said, it will implement a new prioritization model to help determine whom to serve. People with incomes at or below 30 percent of the poverty level, those with disabilities and veterans will be prioritized for admittance.

Bonnar said those groups of people will be first in line because they’re often the people who use the most resources in a community, ranging from emergency room visits to social services.

“A person is a person. If they get the support they need, then they won’t find themselves back in this spot again,” Bonnar said.

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