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Beds open for homeless young adults in Spokane

UPDATED: Thu., June 17, 2021

Volunteers of America isn’t waiting for a new young adult shelter to help young adults.

The nonprofit is already offering beds to people 18 to 24 years old at Women’s Hearth while its leaders work to finalize a permanent location for a new facility. It has also reserved space for young adults at its Hope House adult women’s shelter.

Although Volunteers of America has 27 beds between the two temporary locations, the nonprofit’s leaders say they’ve been well below capacity. Fearful that there’s confusion in the community, they’re eager to get the word out that they’re already open.

The operation at Women’s Hearth is a symbiotic shuffle between two organizations that have long enjoyed a close relationship in Spokane.

Women’s Hearth, a center for women operated by the nonprofit Transitions, uses the space for programming during the day. Each night, Volunteers of America staff jump in and prepare the building for use as an overnight shelter for young adults.

“It’s pretty seamless,” said Gus Santos, the shelter’s program manager.

Starting next week, Volunteers of America expects to bump its opening time earlier to 7:30 p.m. at Women’s Hearth, which is located at 920 West Second Ave. It operates seven nights a week.

In addition to the 15 beds at Women’s Hearth, Volunteers of America has 12 beds reserved for young adults at the Hope House a few blocks away on Third Ave. The Hope House beds are available to anyone except cisgender males.

At both locations, Volunteers of America provides case management to its shelter guests.

That will be the setup until Volunteers of America can lock down its own building for the new young adult shelter, which is funded through a $2.6 million state Department of Commerce grant .

The young adult shelter is a central piece of Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward’s post-pandemic vision for homeless services. She’s also touted the fact that the grant was won in partnership with other local governments, including Spokane Valley and Spokane County.

Government officials and nonprofit leaders have cited a young adult shelter as a critical gap in the regional system that serves people experiencing homelessness.

There is data that shows there are unsheltered young adults in Spokane County and young adults staying in shelters open to all adults, Santos said. The challenge is finding a way to connect them with the young adult shelter offered by Volunteers of America.

There are myriad reasons that a young adult becomes homeless, Santos explained, but the shelter’s goal is “capturing people before they’re entrenched in chronic homelessness.”

Many lack a social safety net available to their housed peers.

“There’s simply nowhere else for them to go,” Santos said.

When it opens a new space, Volunteers of America expects to be able to take in 45 young adults.

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