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Cycling through Spokane for fair, better housing

More than 14 percent of Spokane residents are living below the poverty level, according to the United States Census Bureau. By definition, that means families of four are surviving on less than $23,000 annually.

Many of those families live in temporary housing or, if they have their own home, can’t afford basic maintenance.

The Fuller Center for Housing has some ideas on how all that can change. At 1 p.m. on Aug. 4 at least 30 volunteers will be at Westminster Congregational Church to discuss how the Georgia-based ministry can help transform Spokane neighborhoods.

They’ll roll into town, literally, on Aug. 3 as part of the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure and will be spending two nights at Westminster. Spokane is their second to last stop on a 3,700-mile trek across the country.

“(The ride) helps us, as a faith based organization, get in touch with churches so they can listen to our presentations and hear what do, and hear that we’re really a Christian ministry, we’re not just another non-profit,” said Fuller Communication Director Chris Johnson.

Fuller, founded in 2005 by Millard and Linda Fuller (the couple who organized Habitat for Humanity in 1976), is an ecumenical housing ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty worldwide. Currently the organization serves 50 U.S. communities and 16 countries across the globe.

Rather than working on one house at a time, the organization focuses on entire neighborhoods. Johnson said that’s the way communities are transformed.

For example, in 2005 Fuller volunteers rebuilt a neighborhood near Shreveport, La. Since then the crime in that area has decreased by 80 percent. In a neighborhood they worked on outside Indianapolis, crime has fallen by 70 percent in three years.

“One thing we don’t do is go out and plant partners,” Johnson said. “People in their own communities know how to fix their own communities. We give them resources.”

The Bicycle Adventurers stop in Americus, Ga., home of Fuller Center for Housing headquarters to repair a home. President Carter and Fuller Center founder Millard Fuller helped build the home 30 years ago, but it was damaged by a storm.
The Bicycle Adventurers stop in Americus, Ga., home of Fuller Center for Housing headquarters to repair a home. President Carter and Fuller Center founder Millard Fuller helped build the home 30 years ago, but it was damaged by a storm.

In other cities along the route, where Fuller already has community partners, the cyclists stop for “Build Days” where they work on repairing local houses. Fuller currently does not have any partners in Spokane, so instead will be speaking about their ministry.

Westminster will host a potluck for the cyclists following morning worship. Yisrael Bisman, Westminster volunteer, encourages all those who care about local housing issues to bring a dish to share and join in the conversation.

“It’s just a really good opportunity for us to hear all about how they’re able do so much even in this current economy. We might learn some things from them,” Bisman said. “We’ve got some problems here in Spokane. I’d be happy if we could get handful of people from various faith groups to come.”

Local cyclists are invited to join them for any leg of their ride. They are expected to arrive in Spokane around 3 p.m. Aug. 3 and will head to Vancouver, B.C. Aug. 5. For up-to-date information on their ride follow them on Facebook.

For information call Westminster at 624-1366.

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.

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