Saying 'yes' to sheltering people and being sheltered is a first step
Opening doors to welcome about 20 young adult men and women from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. on cold nights took the trustees, the church council, volunteer workers and city to say "yes," said the Rev. Andrea CastroLang, pastor of Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ.
Those spaces, plus 40 at Cannon St., 60 at Salem Lutheran as emergency warming centers and more at a center the Salvation Army opened in late December, add to 665 permanent shelter beds.
They just needed people of faith and the community to say "yes."
At permanent shelters, Union Gospel Mission, has 255 beds; Family Promise expanding 80 (soon); House of Charity, 174; St. Margaret's Shelter, 18; Volunteers of America's Crosswalk, 21 for youth; Hope House, 36 for women; Truth Ministries, 65, and YFA Connections,16 for children.
That's not enough to meet the increasing numbers of homeless people, said Tija Danzig, program manager with the city's Community, Housing and Human Services.
The shelters provide services to help move people from the streets to education, health care, jobs and permanent housing.
The Guardians Foundation, which helps run several warming shelters, provides security and referrals. Frontier Behavioral Health also provides teams to help people find long-term solutions.
"The temporary shelters are at least a safe, warm place to be and connect with resources," Tija said. "While the City of Spokane is supporting these warming shelters this winter, it seeks long-term solutions, including 100 to 150 more beds in a 24/7 permanent shelter space by summer."
Spokane County's "Point in Time Count" is the last Sunday of January. This year, volunteers will ask about circumstances that led people to be homeless, she said. People interested in volunteering may email firstname.lastname@example.org, or link through Volunteer Spokane online.
In one place, Homeless Connect, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 30, at the Salvation Army, 223 E. Nora, offers free meals, and DSHS, family, veterans, housing, medical and dental services, clothing and food banks, warrant quashing and more.
Camp Hope, a homeless encampment, was set up outside city hall to challenge the sit-and-lie ordinance that criminalizes homelessness. When more temporary shelters opened in December, it was shut down for violating that law. The effort continues.
Meanwhile, Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington continues its commitment to build 800 permanent housing units for chronically homeless people—with 525 built.
Clearly, the community of faith and wider community can say "yes." We can open our doors to welcome people and open our hearts to advocate as allies.
Mary Stamp – Editor
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, January, 2019