Spokane Journal of Business

Shelter for young adults to open near SCC

Facility will serve people 18 to 24 years of age

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A new shelter operated by Volunteers of America Eastern Washington & North Idaho is intended to fill the gap in services for young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 experiencing homelessness.

As the Journal went to press, the Young Adult Shelter was scheduled to open Wednesday, Dec. 1, at the former Spokane Clean Air building located at 3104 E. Augusta, about a block west of Spokane Community College, says Rae-Lynn Barden, Spokane-based marketing and communications director for Volunteers of America.

The 5,200-square-foot space will operate as an overnight shelter with a 44-bed capacity. Young adults seeking shelter for the night can be added to a list on a daily basis. The shelter will provide grab-and-go dinners like Cup Noodles. In the mornings it will provide granola bars and coffee, says Barden.

Funding for the shelter was provided by the city of Spokane and Spokane County, which donated $750,00 and $607,000, respectively. The projected annual budget to operate the shelter is estimated at $1.1 million, adds Barden.

The shelter also will provide two case managers, a supervisor, program manager, and nine additional staff members to help with daily operations.

Placing the shelter near the community college was a strategic move to get young adults away from the downtown area, says Barden.

“We really just want kids to be out of downtown in a neighborhood with access to higher education right across the street and no need to worry about bus passes and extra transportation,” she says.

Young adults aren’t required to be enrolled in SCC to access overnight services at the shelter, however, VOA is working on a partnership to assist with enrollment.

Kevin Brockbank, president of Spokane Community College, says the college is supportive of the new shelter and the opportunity for prospective students to benefit from what the college offers.

“We certainly already have students who would qualify as homeless students. In fact, we have a large number of students who report having food and housing insecurities,” Brockbank says. “It’s not uncommon for us to serve students who are really balancing some difficult life situations while pursuing higher ed.”

Spokane Community College has a variety of financial resources available for such students, he adds.

The latest point-in-time count of people experiencing homelessness in Spokane collected in the last week of January 2020, before the start of the pandemic, showed that for the age group of young adults 18 to 24, a total of 133 youths were counted as homeless in Spokane. The point-in-time data shows a snapshot of the circumstances and situations of people in need in Spokane.

Maurice Smith, communications and media liaison for Spokane Homeless Coalition, says through email correspondence, however, that a 2019 survey by The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice of nearly 167,000 college students showed that 17% of students experienced homelessness in the previous year.

“Spokane’s two community colleges have a combined enrollment of approximately 15,559 students,” Smith says. “If the 17% rate also proved true for Spokane’s community college system, that would mean a potential homeless student population of 2,645 youth, ages 18 to 24.”

Smith, who also is the executive producer of “My Road Leads Home,” a documentary series focused on homelessness in Spokane, says the Hope Center survey findings raise an important question to consider: “Is our homeless youth population, hidden among our community college students, much larger than we suspect?”

Karina Elias
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Reporter Karina Elias covers the banking and finance industry. A California native, she attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. Karina loves salsa dancing, traveling, baking, cuddling with her dog, and writing creative fiction and non-fiction.  

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