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Catholic Charities, VOA building housing units for chronically homeless

By Sarah Taylor

One-hundred new subsidized housing units will become available in downtown Spokane in the summer of 2016. This project is sponsored and owned by Catholic Charities Spokane (CCS) and the North Idaho branch of Volunteers of America (VOA). The finished units will offer permanent housing to chronically homeless individuals and families.

“It’s just a simple truth: there’s just not enough housing available, not enough subsidized housing available, so we’re committed to building as many units as possible to try to solve the homeless problem in Spokane,” said John Fisher, the Housing Development Manager at CCS.

This housing project is modeled after CCS’ Father Bach Haven (FBH), one of Spokane’s first chronically homeless housing projects. According to Fisher, FBH was full within two months of opening, and has always had a waitlist.

Of the 100 units, 50, christened Buder Haven, will belong to CCS, and the other 50, named Marilee, will be VOA’s. Buder Haven and Marilee will stand side by side at 201 East 2nd Ave. in downtown Spokane. Both properties will be managed by CCS’ current property management program, and CCS and VOA will be coordinating together on the management of the buildings and their tenants.

CCS and VOA both have experience working with Spokane’s homeless population and the problems often associated with chronic homelessness. The VOA runs a women’s shelter called Hope House, and CCS is in charge of a men’s shelter known as House of Charity.

“There’s a huge need based on what we see at House of Charity and people needing shelter on a daily basis and so the demand is pretty well documented,” Fisher said.

Tenants can, but are not required to, work with an outside agency that will provide services addressing any issues the tenant may be struggling with. CCS and VOA will do all the necessary coordinating, including transportation, and can even arrange on site care.

Monique Kolonko, assistant director of seniors and housing at CCS, said this extra support will help to make sure the tenants have the tools they need to live successful in housing.

“Buder Haven is permanent housing, so a resident can live there as long as they choose to and comply with the lease just like any other apartment complex anywhere. It would be like you or I renting an apartment, only this one comes with social services and rental subsidies,” Kolonko said.

Residents will come through the city of Spokane’s Coordinated Entry Program, directly from House of Charity or Hope House, making the transition from a shelter into permanent housing, or from straight off the street. Similar to FBH, each resident’s income is a qualifying factor in determining their monthly rent, but they will never be asked to pay more than 30 percent of their income. The rental vouchers are sponsored by Spokane Housing Authority, a government organization.

“When I think about our housing, I like to think about the individual lives that are changed and then the ripple effects from their success. I know that’s a little schmaltzy and yet, is true,” Kolonko said.

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