January 26, 2017
Annually the City of Spokane gets volunteers together to comb the streets and shelters for one evening to collect a census of the city’s homeless population. Rayce and Tiffany were able to sign up a small team which included themselves and family friend Tonja of Spokane, to help with the efforts.
We were assigned to the House of Charity which is a 24/7 shelter that providers breakfast and lunch, as well as, mail services for clients that do not have permanent addresses.
Our volunteer slot was from 6-9pm. As we arrived we noticed a very large line forming from the locked gates of the House of Charity and going down the street nearly 100 people deep. We were escorted to the front of the line and allowed in so we could get set up. The HOC staff was very cooperative and funneled people to our tables one by one to answer the census survey questions. The survey asked questions such as:
- As you currently fleeing a domestic violence situation? (If they were, we would not record any identifying information)
- Where did you stay last night?
- Would you mind sharing your name and DOB?
- Do you suffer from any of the following medical conditions? (ex: mental, physical, chronic, PTSD, CPOD, Diabetes, etc.)
- Do you use drugs or alcohol?
- What is the cause of your homelessness?
Rayce ended up performing surveys in the Men’s unit upstairs where there were beds and showers. Tiffany and Tonja remained downstairs in the general intake and sleeping area. The sleeping area was very humbling for Tiffany, the area used for meal times which would usually be occupied by tables and benches was cleared out with nothing more then wall to wall yoga mats. Each person occupied a 3’x6′ space which included keeping the small amount of possessions they had nearby. Many people were not dressed for the weather and some were severely affected by years of drug and alcohol abuse. She met people from all walks of life:
- Women that had been stay home mom’s who went through divorce and were forced to the streets in their 50’s
- Men just released from prison in new clothing with no family in town and no means of transportation
- Many people that had been evicted from their living situations due to lack of ability to pay rent
- Men that has recently been given papers for separation or divorce and had turned to drugs or alcohol because they had no family near by
- Younger adults just barely 18 that had been homeless for a year or more because their parents wouldn’t let them reside at home any longer
We all know the old adage that there is more than one side to a story, no matter how you dice it, we had life changing experiencing that were both humbling and heart breaking no matter who’s side of the story you heard. There were also some enlightening moments too, we all had at least one encounter which included someone that chose to be homeless for more than one reason. None of the 3 of us could really understand that choice even though we were given many reasons for it.
SoLoved hopes to be involved with the Point-In-Time Count for years to come, as a way to reach others and extend kindness even if for a brief moment and also to add some clarity into the lives of those affected by acute and chronic homelessness.