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Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes opens doors to provide Spokane’s homeless vets a hot meal, access to resources

UPDATED: Sat., Jan. 26, 2019

Theresa Hart offers help and support to Navy veteran Rommel Westlaw during an event for the homeless at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Spokane on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. Hart is the founder of Newby-ginnings, nonprofit in Post Falls that provides frees household items to veterans, military members and their families. Newby-ginnings is named after Hart’s son, Army Specialist Nick Newby, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2011. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Theresa Hart offers help and support to Navy veteran Rommel Westlaw during an event for the homeless at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Spokane on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. Hart is the founder of Newby-ginnings, nonprofit in Post Falls that provides frees household items to veterans, military members and their families. Newby-ginnings is named after Hart’s son, Army Specialist Nick Newby, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2011. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Homeless people, including a number of military veterans, received a hot meal and a bevy of goods and services Saturday afternoon at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Spokane.

The event, organized by city officials with help from the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, was designed to be a first step for homeless vets to find housing, mental health care, peer support and skills to get a new job.

In a room at the cathedral, homeless people were treated to chili, hot dogs and potato salad courtesy of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane. One veteran attended because he needed a new pair of boots. Others came to pick up donations of hygiene products, socks, gloves and winter jackets.

Providers from Goodwill, WorkSource and several other organizations were on hand to introduce them to various programs and resources.

“Not anyone in this room can solve everything,” said Seth Maier, a WorkSource employee who specializes in helping veterans find and apply for jobs.

However, the various providers have a “symbiotic relationship” and can work together to meet a veteran’s specific needs, Maier said.

Sometimes homeless people need help writing a resume, or they don’t know how to inform potential employers of a past criminal conviction, Maier said. Veterans are already at an increased risk of suicide, and homelessness can exacerbate feelings of depression and hopelessness.

The most important thing is stable housing, Maier said. Many homeless people “get into this catch-22 where they think they need a job to get a house,” he said. “You need a house first.”

City officials had notified homeless people of the event while conducting their annual point-in-time count, which aims to provide a snapshot of who’s living on the streets in Spokane.

Becky Tuno, a homeless programs specialist with the city’s Community, Housing and Human Services Department, said Saturday’s veterans-focused event followed another event focused on homeless youth.

“Youth and veterans can be hard to connect with and hard to count,” Tuno said. Saturday’s event provided a central location where their needs could be assessed.

A local chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars also took part in the event. Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan, an Army veteran and VFW member, said the idea behind the event was simple: “Leave no man behind.”

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