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Family Promise joins common shelter effort, adds another day center

Family Promise of Spokane is gearing up to open an additional  Day Center as the “Open Doors” program.

Steve Allen and Joe Ader prepare for new program.

The plan is to accommodate its participation in a new program, the 24/7 Shelter, which is being coordinated by Community Housing and Human Services (CHHS) with the City of Spokane and community partners, said Steve Allen, director of Family Promise for three years.

The planning has been underway since spring to provide a safe place for homeless individuals and families to go to, have basic needs met and connect with services through the Homeless Families Coordinated Assessment program of Catholic Charities, a one-stop portal for helping families find permanent housing.

Family Promise, Salvation Army and Catholic Charities House of Charity are scheduled to open a “ramp-up” model with overnight shelters at House of Charity for individuals and the Salvation Army for families on Nov. 1.  Family Promise plans to open the 24/7 Day Center Dec. 1 at Emmanuel Family Life Center, 631 S. Richard Allen Ct.  A full 24/7 model will launch on Jan. 1, 2017, and will include Transitions and Volunteers of America.

A steering committee is in place to address policy, procedure, collaboration and funding.

While working on the shelter model, the partners will continue to work with other agencies to create long-term housing solutions.

The 2016, 24/7 shelter ramp up costs are estimated at $287,232 for the three agencies with $127,750 allocated for one-time capital improvements required.

These expenses will be covered with Community Development Block Grant funds for capital and Consolidated Homeless Grant, Spokane Human Services Grant and other CHHS sources for operations.

Steve said they will have the day center open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

During national Family Promise Week, Oct. 16 to 23, there is be a food and supply drive, and an open house from 3 to 6 p.m, Monday, Oct. 17, at the Open Doors day center.

This program is in addition to Family Promise’s regular program of housing homeless families in churches, moving them each week, and offering day services at their Day Center at 904 E. Hartson.

Family Promise, which has 12 host churches and 20 support churches, now seeks to find another 12 churches to rotate weekly to provide food and other necessities for families who come for services, showers, rest and refuge.

Family Promise has hired Joe Ader as the new program director for the day center.  He recently moved from Dallas, Texas, with experience working with low-income people and speaking for his nonprofit, Understanding Poverty.

Because this is a pilot project, they have no idea how many people to expect, but anticipate four to five families may come each day for short-term help with resources through Homeless Families Coordinated Assessment.

Family Promise of Spokane, one of 202 affiliates nationwide, now is reframing its program to three facets:

• Open Doors is the 24/7 sheltering of homeless families daytime program.

• Bridges is the current Family Promise program, moving families from homelessness into homes.

 • Villages is a family mentoring network, pairing people with volunteers and former homeless families, and offering family enrichment classes one evening a week for two to three years.

“Our dream is to have a ‘village’ in every region of Spokane to connect former homeless families—as African villages do—to care for, walk with and look out for families,” said Steve, who saw such villages at work when he was in Zambia from 2007 to 2012.  “People knew they were not alone and their lives were not their own.  They shared resources and burdens.”

Through family enrichment and mentoring, a family moving into Spokane for a new start continues to have support after 45 days.

Steve told of one family who entered the program.  They had been staying in a motel, but after the father lost hours at work, they could not pay for the motel.  The wife had health issues and could not stay in a car.

“They showed up at our door, and we had an opening,” said Steve, who previously served as a pastor and missionary. 

“We helped them be able to pay their debt, improve the wife’s health, buy a car, find a job and be established in housing.  They are now coming to the family enrichment program and connecting with other former families to gain more life skills and link with community resources,” he explained.

“With the vacancy rate at 1.3 percent, we are seeing continual growth in the number of homeless families.  The families need long-term investment,” Steve said.

He believes that mentors—including both volunteers and former families—can be a solution.  So Family Promise is recruiting more volunteers.

Homelessness is often the result of people growing up in difficult environments or abusive families where they have not learned life skills, such as managing a job and budget.  Mentors invest in families so they can eventually help others.”

Steve said he is committed to engaging the caring community of churches because government resources have limits. 

“We can provide community, friendship and support,” he said.

“Without the churches’ investment in the community, we suffer,” he said.  “The church is called to be a light, sacrificing to help others come to a healthy place.  Love with no strings can break down walls.

“One family member said, ‘I felt more loved one week at Family Promise than I have all my life.’  The kind of love the church should be known for is unconditional acts of grace and love,” said Steve, who attends Covenant Church Spokane in Northwest Spokane. 

On the concern about housing people in churches without sprinkler systems, Steve said a bill they proposed last year in the State Legislature was rejected by Seattle because the number of days was limited to seven for everyone.  This year, they propose a siimilar bill geared to cities the size of Spokane.

Family Promise of Spokane serves 15 to 25 families in a year.  They hope to expand to Spokane Valley.

For information, call 979-8070 or email director@familypromiseofspokane.org.




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