FALL 2018 works faith
There has been a great deal of media attention around the issue of homelessness and around the House of Charity this summer. Some of it has not been very positive, however I think the coverage actually has been a blessing (yes, even the negative coverage!) because it has placed the important issue of homelessness front and center on the topic list for our dinner table and water cooler conversations. That’s a good thing. Homelessness is a very complicated, controversial, emotionally charged issue where people of good heart can and will often disagree. And that’s ok. It’s ok to disagree as long as we can remain civil and remain in a dialogue that moves us toward collaborative solutions. Dialogue about this issue is the only way we will ever be able to find common ground for the common good! So yes. Let’s keep talking. Even if it’s heated. Even if it’s difficult.And especially when others disagree with us. The House of Charity was moved to its current location from its long-time home on Main Street almost 20 years ago.We worked with the City for two full years before we all agreed and were approved by the City to build on the current location at the corner of Pacific and Browne.The current HOC facility was built to sleep 109 men per night and hold space for about 250 men and women for breakfast, lunch and day services.We would then close each afternoon to scrub and sterilize the building to be ready to re-open for those needing a bed at around 6:00 p.m. For the past 20 months with our 24/7 shelter pilot we have slept anywhere from 300-400 men, women, couples and their service animals at night, and sometimes had 400+ in the building during the day.We’ve been open 24 hours a day. Non-stop. The good news is that during these past 20 months, Spokane has seen a living, breathing solution to homelessness.The need for solutions has been great, and for 20 months, every single chronic street homeless man and woman has had a place to go for a bed, a meal, a shower and a chance to live with basic human dignity.That’s not just good news, that’s great news. Most of downtown Spokane saw a noticeable change for the better as a result.The tougher news is that the solution has put an intense strain on our staff, our volunteers, our facility, and our block.What has been a real solution for downtown core businesses, hotels, restaurants and retail has been a struggle for us and for several businesses around the HOC. For the first time in my 18 years here, the HOC has not been the usual clean, calm, relatively quiet place we know. Don’t get me wrong, the HOC has always had its spicy moments, as any homeless shelter does. However, for the most part it’s been manageable. It’s been a safe, clean, healthy place even when it’s a little chaotic.These past 20 months though, chaotic has become the norm. Staff, volunteers, and clients have not always felt as safe and sure as before.We need to get back to that before we try to grow again. Over 20 months of the 24/7 pilot, we tried several staffing patterns and add-on services to try and make it work.We added security staff and janitors whose only job was to pick up trash and clean the streets around our block.We added a special phone number for our neighboring businesses to call so we could send our staff to them, usually in 90 seconds or less if they needed assistance. Even with all of these measures, things were still terribly difficult.
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