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Transitions dreams big to house the homeless in Spokane

Intercommunity ministry

By Mary M. Tracey
Transitions Development Director

This is an architectural rendering of the 24 cottages Transitions is building for homeless women and children in Spokane.

Home is where the heart is; it’s a saying we all know. When you have no place to call home, it is hard to feel settled and at peace in your heart. Unfortunately, homelessness is a reality for more than 1,400 women in Spokane each night, many with children to care for.

Transitions, an intercommunity ministry whose sponsors include Sisters of Providence, is working to end poverty and homelessness for these women and children and is launching a new program that increases the availability of affordable housing. This August, Transitions will break ground on 24 cottages. These cottages, each less than 1,000 square feet, will house formerly homeless individuals and families living below the poverty line and coping with physical and mental disabilities.

This is a new and daunting project for Transitions. By our very name, we have acknowledged the transitive nature of poverty and homelessness. We understand that often we see a woman or family on the worst day of their life and that, after they stabilize, we may never see them again. This new housing project will provide permanent, or un-time-limited, housing to these same women and families and broaden our service population to “traditional” two-parent families and single-father families. The project will be unique in other ways, as well. We are utilizing Spokane’s Cottage Housing Ordinance, which incentivizes in-fill housing within the city. It allows us to build twelve cottages per acre, each one with a 250-square-foot green space attached. We will be the first affordable housing project in Spokane to use this ordinance.

Additionally, we will continue to host a community garden at the site at 3128 North Hemlock and will be building a community building. These amenities will be available to residents of the program and residents in our neighborhood. Our participants can have birthday parties on the covered patio and neighbors can have Block Watch meetings inside. We will also be building a service animal run and two playgrounds as part of the development. These unique services were suggested by participants in a focus group.

Finally, but perhaps the most unique, these cottages will serve as a net-zero demonstration project. Fifteen of the twenty-four cottages will have increased insulation, triple-pane windows, high-efficiency appliances and solar panels. These cottages will be compared to the cottages without these improvements to show the efficacy of the improvements and to show that energy efficiency can be used effectively in an affordable-housing setting.

Of course, we are proud of these aspects of the project and cannot wait to improve the availability of affordable housing in Spokane. But we are even more proud of the 1,600 women and children who bravely walk through our doors and choose to change their lives for the better. These women and children are the inspiration for us to look at this daunting housing development and know that not only will we succeed, but we must succeed, because they are counting on us.

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