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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Everyone deserves a healthy home

By Mary Stamp

Edie Rice-Sauer uses a childhood dollhouse as a conversation starter, often bringing back childhood memories of women who visit her office.

A doll house that Edie Rice-Sauer’s grandparents made for her when she was 12 reminds her that everyone deserves a comfortable, safe and healthy home.

As executive director of Transitions, she oversees programs to end poverty and homelessness for women and children in Spokane.

In her three years there and in previous work, the doll house has been a good conversation starter.

During her two years as director of the Women’s Hearth, a drop-in center for women, one woman said it brought back childhood memories.

“I wish I had a home like that,” another said.

“We talk about dreams,” Edie said.  “Dreams are important.  When people are hopeless, it’s hard to move out of that.”

Edie showed the stuffed bed and chair her grandmother made.  The doll house is complete with earring lights, curtains and towels.

“To me, it is a symbol of their love,” she said.  “Everyone should have that kind of affection.”

Edie keeps it decorated for Christmas because that can be such a joyous time.  There are presents around a tree, and a Santa on the roof, which is made of shingles from the house where her grandfather was born in 1906 in Indian Territory that is now Oklahoma.

Transitions offices are now in the basement of the Transitional Living Center at 3148 N. Hemlock, which means they save rent.  Youth Build remodeled it two years ago. 

Before the Dominican Sisters left Spokane to move to Sinsinawa, Wis., they started a ministry to serve women and children.  In 1993, they purchased and renovated the 1896 building that had been used for nearly 50 years as an orphanage.

At its fall “People Who Care” benefit breakfast and lunch, Transitions celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Sisters of the Holy Names, Sisters of Providence, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and Dominican Sisters bringing together their programs as Transitions.

Dollhouse rooms are decorated for Christmas, a happy time.

Edie described the Transitions programs.

• Since 1986, Miryam’s House has provided transitional housing for 10 homeless, single women at a time.  Many are victims of domestic violence or in recovery for substance abuse.  There are recovery support groups and a trauma support group.

They shop, cook and share dinner Monday through Friday, gaining life skills in the process.  Case managers help women find housing after six to eight months there.

“After women leave the program, there is support with access to case managers, recreational activities and holiday celebrations,” Edie said. 

About 30 women participate.

Of 28 women at Miryam’s House in 2014, 15 found housing, five gained employment and four furthered their education.

• In 1991, Sr. Cathy Beckley, SNJM, started what is now the Women’s Hearth primarily for women in recovery and on the street.  She was also in recovery, Edie said. 

It began as a place to be safe during the day as the Women’s Drop-In Center, first on Jefferson, then on Howard, and for eight years at 920 W. Second.

Of 1,403 women served in 2014, there were about 18,700 visits, 997 life-skills classes and 26 women found housing.

• New Leaf is the newest program. It grew out of the Women’s Hearth’s recognizing the need for job training. 

Dominican Sister Sheila Fitzgerald started it in 2006, to provide job training—like teaching someone to fish, rather than giving them a fish. 

Women working with New Leaf prepare and sell baked goods, do catering and have major orders for granola from Sacred Heart and the Department of Corrections.  They serve both breakfast and lunch at a café open Mondays through Thursdays at Catholic Charities.

Some are trained for eight weeks in cashiering, taking orders and customer service.  In the kitchen, women have six months of training.  Some go on for education.  A vocational specialist helps women find work, coordinating employment services with the YWCA and St. Margaret’s Shelter.

In 2014, 45 women had job training, 17 found jobs, nine furthered their education and 97 had one-on-one job readiness support.

• The Transitional Living Center, which came about to change families’ lives, houses and provides support services for homeless women and children in 15 apartments and one permanent housing unit. 

It includes counseling, support groups, parenting education and the EduCare childcare for formerly homeless children.

In 2014, it served 29 families with 56 children, 24 found housing, seven mothers furthered their education and four found employment, and 34 children had supportive care.

Previously Edie was development director at Volunteers of America, after working in the Regional Support Network of Spokane County Mental Health for 10 years, learning about government grants, HUD and Medicaid.

She and her husband, Redhawk Rice-Sauer, minister of Origin Church, formerly Covenant Christian Church, moved to Spokane 20 years ago from Nashville, Tenn., where she was associate director of the YWCA for eight years.

Edie earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and church history in 1979 from Hiram College in Northeast Ohio, and a master of divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School.

“Since I was in seventh grade I felt called to ministry, but a ministry of social services, not serving a congregation,” said Edie, who has also served on the Disciples of Christ General Church Board, on the General Board Historical Society and as moderator for the Northwest Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

“Transitions’ values align with mine.  They are values of being sensitive to the whole person, not just to someone’s mental health, but their overall wellness, nutrition, spiritual health, healthy relationships, community and support system,” Edie said. “The focus is on respect and justice-making.”

She believes that Transitions’ strength is in someone saying, “yes,” when they could have said, “no.”

“Yes is our word,” she said.  “It’s a forever ‘yes.’  So people who have lost their way find solace, and we place pavers for them to walk their lives back together. 

“Women learn that not only is housing possible, but also wholeness and healthy relationships are possible,” she said. 

“We know lost isn’t forever unforgiveable, invisible or forever gone.  It is a temporary state of being, a limited time,” Edie said.

“So often women and families come to us lost, stuck in the fog,” she said. 

“Their relationship with us will be unique, tailored just to meet their place along the pavers of life,” she added.  “Their stories will change from no’s to yeses as they come through the door.

“The fog will lift. The pain is temporary.  Yes, they can find a job, find a home, depend on us,” Edie said.  “God created them, and they are good.”

For information, call 328-6702 or email

Copyright © December 2015 - The Fig Tree