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VOA programs shelter homeless people, build stable lives

By Mary Stamp

Fawn Schott seeks to expand partnering with churches on Crosswalk.

Fawn Schott believes that people are better able to explore their spirituality when their needs for food, shelter, safety, stability and relationships are met.

As the new executive director of Volunteers of America (VOA) of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, she oversees 11 programs to meet people’s basic needs.

The VOA, which is an ecumenical, interdenominational Christian church, does not hold worship services or offer study groups.  Its mission is to serve vulnerable people, approaching them with love, compassion and caring, as Jesus would do.

Fawn felt compassion and a sense of peace, belonging and home, when she first visited VOA in Spokane as part of her work from 2011 to 2015 with Goodwill to co-launch supportive veterans services for 410 veterans and families in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

She then worked a year with the Empire Health Foundation before the opening came for her to apply for and be hired to be CEO of VOA in Spokane.

Fawn has stepped into leadership of this agency that serves vulnerable people such as street youth, homeless women, homeless vets, teen parents, foster youth, single mothers and medically fragile homeless adults.

VOA walks beside people to help them transition out of homelessness, offering education and opportunities. Its programs express their belief in the power of housing to transform lives.  VOA seeks to house people as quickly as possible so they can begin rebuilding their lives to achieve stability and independence.

VOA is committed to human dignity and social justice, and to engaging volunteers in the community.

Its newest program is family visitation for children removed from a family by court order, allowing families to stay connected so they can eventually reunify.  That program, launched in December, includes therapeutic parent coaching.  It has 30 staff to serve 200 Eastern Washington families.

VOA’s housing programs connect people with case management to help them learn life skills and connect them to resources, like mental health and substance abuse counseling.

In 2016, The Marilee, 50 units of “housing first” housing for chronically homeless adults, began to offer permanent housing with support services.  It is already fully occupied and has three case managers, a health worker and visiting nurses, Fawn said.

In 1985, VOA recruited congregations to provide meals to draw at-risk teens living on the streets and launched Crosswalk, which is now a shelter, school and multi-service center for homeless teens.

Fawn reported that the Crosswalk youth shelter is losing $200,000 in funding, so it seeks new avenues to fill the gap, in order to continue to provide homeless teens a place to sleep, eat, do laundry and receive schooling.

“We will seek ways the community can help us fill the gaps,” she said, announcing that VOA will be looking to develop new partnerships with faith communities to meet the basic needs of youth who are on the streets.

“The faith community continues to be faithful supporters,” she said.

In the region, the VOA offers several other programs.

• Alexandria’s House is a transitional group home for pregnant or parenting teens.

• Applewood, Valley Place, Country Heights and Trent Terrace Apartments offer subsidized housing for people with special needs.

• Aston-Bleck Apartments are transitional housing for women ages 19 to 22 and their children.

• Foster Youth Services provide independent living services for teens leaving the foster care system.

• Hope House is an emergency shelter with on-site permanent housing for adult women.

• Hope Housing is permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless, disabled adults.

• Medical Respite Care offers short-term respite care for homeless women coming out of the hospital.

• Veteran’s Housing provides transitional housing for chronically homeless single men who served.

Volunteers of America, a national nonprofit  helping more than 2 million people a year, was founded in 1896 by Ballington and Maud Booth to “go wherever we are needed and do whatever comes to hand.”

Fawn said VOA helps vulnerable people “in the greatest need” and works to uplift them to live in dignity.

The national website says VOA “is a church without walls that answers God’s call to transform our communities through a ministry of service that demonstrates to all people that they are beloved.” 

Each of its 30 branches is locally run with hundreds of employees, volunteers and partners.

Fawn, who grew up in Carnation, WA, started studies in education at Washington State University in Pullman.  After she and her husband, Stephen, married, she went to Eastern Washington University, graduating in 1998 in English and special education.

She has been in the Spokane area since 1996, living in Spokane three years and now living north of Deer Park.

She taught eighth grade at-risk teens, but quit to raise her own children Madelyn and Gabriel.  Stephen, who had worked with a TV station, started a video production company 10 years ago.  In 2011, when their son was in second grade, she went back to work as youth director at Goodwill and became general manager.

While she was a stay-at-home mother, Fawn completed a master’s in project management at WSU in 2004.  That program introduced her to board development, business operations, risk assessment, staff management and project implementation.

“I always had a heart for service.  As a child, I wanted to give back,” said Fawn, who still wants to give to others.

“I use my love for business and my love for relationships as director of this service provider,” she said.

Because her parents owned a construction company that renovated rehabs, she met people and learned “their incredible stories as they grew though challenges and trauma to become resilient.”

Fawn said that by listening to people’s stories “we can come to respect every person, those from different journeys and different walks of life. So our job is to love each other and to help our neighbors through their journeys.”

Fawn is now working to be a minister in the VOA.  Ministers go through training and mentoring to be commissioned.

Fawn grew up Methodist and her husband’s father was a Baptist minister.  They attend a community church in Mead.

As an organized person and strategic thinker, she brings teams together to help the organization identify community challenges and develop solutions to them.

She wants to assure that the needs of vulnerable people are met so that in 10 to 100 years “no one should need us.”

“Meantime, how do we assure we are still here to meet the needs of the community, to develop full, compassionate and warm-hearted people who love their work and are committed to meet the needs of people who are challenged and need love?” she asked.

The goal is for people to have the dignity and safety needed for social, emotional and physical stability through gaining life skills for self-sufficiency.

For information, call 624-2378 or email

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