A new 73-unit affordable housing complex in Spokane’s Logan Neighborhood is expected to welcome its first tenants by September.
Construction started in November on Gonzaga Family Haven, a five-building permanent housing complex with support services for low-income families, including those who have experienced homelessness. The project, located at the corner of East North Foothills Drive and North Hamilton Street, is a partnership between Catholic Charities Eastern Washington, Gonzaga University and Gonzaga Prep.
While some tenants are slated to move in September, Jonathan Mallahan, vice president of housing for Catholic Charities, said the agency is expecting to finish the rest of the $22 million project by November.
“Although the most visible homelessness are those suffering on our streets downtown, the faces of homelessness truly are our families,” Mallahan said, “and that’s why Gonzaga Family Haven is so important. We need to meet that growing need. We need to recognize that as housing prices continue to grow, housing instability amongst children is greater than ever.”
Childhood experiences with homelessness have long-term impacts on educational attainment, income and frequency experiencing homelessness later in life, Mallahan said.
To help address that locally, Gonzaga Family Haven is taking shape on a lot formerly owned by the city water department. The property was used for employee parking and a small building for code enforcement field employees.
The Spokane City Council voted in December 2019 to sell the property to Catholic Charities for $550,000. Mallahan said federal and state tax credits have funded the bulk of the project, with additional support via a $1.6 million grant from Head Start, a $1.75 million grant from Catholic Charities and a $5 million donation from the Day One Families Fund, a charity launched by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Families that make up to 60% of the area median income will be eligible to apply. Mallahan said Catholic Charities will also take referrals through homeless services providers and the agency’s Rising Strong program, a housing and treatment program for families at risk of separation due to substance abuse.
The average out-of-pocket rent for residents is expected to be approximately $250, he said.
“Housing is just a platform for that change that will end intergenerational poverty in our community, and that, fundamentally, is why Gonzaga Family Haven is so unique,” Mallahan said. “It isn’t just a place to live. It’s a home and a community that helps people move forward in their lives.”
Physical amenities will include an early learning/child care facility, a quarter-mile bike/pedestrian trail, a community garden and a splash pad.
Catholic Charities worked directly with the Salish School of Spokane to ensure certain project elements are representative of indigenous culture, Mallahan said. This includes the splash pad’s design and a selection of certain plant species historically meaningful to area tribes.
Mallahan said Catholic Charities would like to make Gonzaga Family Haven as open to the public as possible – albeit with limits based on the agency’s ability to safely staff the space.
“The idea is that we’re creating a protected space for residents, but we’re welcoming the community to come and be a part of it,” he said. “It’s almost like we’re adding another park to Logan Neighborhood.”
Catholic Charities and Gonzaga University’s Center for Community Engagement will have presences on-site, said Peggy Haun-McEwen, Gonzaga Family Haven’s director of community. Services envisioned for the complex include case management, after-school programming, meal assistance and food preparation seminars.
“We started to try to look at what we need to do to make this successful and make this a forever home for these families and not just a pit stop,” Haun-McEwen said.
Catholic Charities is working with Gonzaga and Gonzaga Prep on opportunities to involve students in the haven’s community programs.
Gonzaga Prep students will serve as tutors and peers, while university students will help with housing activities, community meals and educational support for parents and children, said Sarah Yerden, director of marketing and communications for Catholic Charities Eastern Washington.
Beyond Gonzaga and Gonzaga Prep, groups and programs supporting Gonzaga Family Haven include the Logan Neighborhood Council, Logan Elementary School, St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church, The Zone Project and Head Start, Haun-McEwen said.
As director of community, Haun-McEwen will serve as the “boots on the ground” liaison to coordinate the various volunteer groups and their on-site activities, she said. In taking the role, Haun-McEwen is leaving her position as dean of students at Gonzaga Prep.
“It feels like such an opportunity to work with families at the very fundamental (level) of creating a home, which then can have huge impact – especially on the children. If they can break that cycle of poverty by having a home, then I feel it’s a life well-lived.”
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