But why the hungry?
Being a volunteer at Our Place is a double-edged sword for me. On many days, I am filled with a sense of never-ending gratitude and humility. And there are days where I am just saddened or angry.
I am so grateful for those necessities and people in my life. I am surrounded by friends, family and neighbors who are supportive and generous with me. I am humbled by the people whom we serve, so many who thank us, bless us, and tell us how much they appreciate what we do. Knowing that what I do is just giving a little time and exerting some energy.
Poverty is a disease of violence. In its wake, it leaves a trail of stress, trauma, chemical dependency, and even death. And it is preventable. I see people whose full-time job is survival, and there are no benefits. Where will I sleep? How much food can I carry that won’t spoil? I need to get shoes, boots, coats and tents for winter. It is heartbreaking.
I heard someone once say people are poor because they didn’t have any “umph.” That is a common misconception. It is often easier to blame than to contemplate change, either systemically or individually. Poverty can be a result of racism, misogyny, mental illness, other chronic illnesses, or a generational disease-it doesn’t matter.
The other day, while passing through our lobby, a woman stopped me and said that she wanted to know how we could do what we do at Our Place and not be judgmental. I responded by saying we all have known places of darkness and despair; and as a neighborhood leader once said to me, “Michele, you never know where a person has been, or what they have been through.” That is our mantra at Our Place, meeting people where they are at and advocating for them where and when needed. For me it is a matter of Justice that we feed those who are hungry, cloth those who are cold, and try to be a speck of light for those who are in darkness.
N.W. Blvd Safeway and Spokane Community
Thank you! Truly doesn’t say enough for the efforts and energy of Safeway #342 put towards the Home Team Harvest food drive. 792 bags were collected. This food drive is the biggest direct food drive that Our Place has ever received! Amazing, truly amazing! This happened because the staff of Safeway cares.
In our West Central Neighborhood it is so hard to see the need of our neighbors and we know that the staff of our local Safeway sees this too. With all of us working together we are making a difference. Everyone who comes to Our Place is impacted by poverty. The majority of people served at Our Place are disabled with fixed incomes and the working poor. With the simple focused programs at Our Place we give stability when incomes rarely meet cost of living.
For those of us who see the depth of poverty of West Central, we often put a cushion on our hearts so they don’t hurt. But, what Safeway #342 did with this food drive lightens our spirit. As I sit writing this I just can’t seem to adequately express our deepest gratitude but please know that I speak for those who minister to the need of our neighbors and the patrons who are receiving this food, Thank You.
Again, with the greatest of thanks to all of the staff at Safeway #342 and Northwest Harvest, we are able to provide support for the impoverished, giving hope and tangible assistance for those with nowhere else to turn. We continually strive to be good stewards of our resources and your gift will deliver assistance to our neighbors many of whom are unable to afford life’s vital necessities.
Thank you again; it is truly an honor to have our relationship with our local Northwest Blvd. Safeway and Northwest Harvest.
With Sincere Gratitude, Respect and Appreciation,
An Our Place Story
By Tracie Swanson, Executive Director
Living in Nevada, Janie, her husband and their three kids experienced many bouts of domestic violence, especially when her husband was drinking. Their small town didn’t have shelters for an escape, so she and the children stayed. During a time of peace, they made a choice to move to Spokane where they had high hopes that a change of scenery would change the cycle of violence as well.
Here in Spokane, they made it a year. She borrowed his phone one day, and he kicked her, violently. She got out of their room and stayed in their daughter’s bed for 30 days. The violence happened again.
“I couldn’t take it anymore. I got my children and I into a safe house,” Janie said. “He didn’t even call us for three months.”
Janie took her kids from the safe house after three months and moved to another shelter where she started taking classes and working on programs to rebuild her life. She signed papers promising to not let her abuser come to where she was. Her husband persisted, found her and the children and they were kicked out. “I knew I shouldn’t have let him come to the counseling with me, but I love him and he is my husband.”
Out on the streets, the five of them traveled up north and lived on a hay field for a month. She couldn’t go anywhere. They finally moved to an Airway Heights camp spot, it had a shower there. Janie started taking the kids to school, ages 10, 8, and 5. Things were looking up. But with winter coming, they couldn’t camp out there forever. She applied and received TANF money. Her husband suggested they use the money and go back to Nevada.
They got as far as Pocatello and found a tent spot for $8 a night. During the day they looked around town for shelters that would take families. On October 14, her husband found a “bum” and started drinking with him, heavily. She took the kids and left. Late that night, she started thinking about him. She didn’t want him to be cold. She went and found him. They argued. He started hitting her, split her head open. She got by people, so he wouldn’t hurt her further. Screaming profanities, the police arrested him.
A Mormon church in Pocatello gave Janie gas money to get her back to Spokane. For the next four months, she and her children bounced from shelter to shelter. It was hard Janie said, “No one to trust and no family for support.” About six months ago, she qualified and got an apartment in our West Central neighborhood. Her apartment manager told her about Our Place Community Ministries: A beacon of hope.
We first met Janie at Our Place Ministries about three months ago. She came in to get some food and hygiene items for herself and her children. We were able to provide her with 95 pounds of healthy, nutritional food made up of all the important food groups. Janie accessed our hygiene bank and got laundry detergent, bar soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes. She was able to find some clothes for her children for school as well.
Janie came in another time to get food. Her car was broke down and she needed some transportation assistance as well to get around town and look for jobs. We got Janie some all-day bus passes. “I was spending a lot of time walking from place to place and my feet were so sore, I was really grateful for your help.” She said she wished she had had some bus passes on the first day of school when her children missed the bus. New school, new route, we all can emphasize. Anyway, because she had no money for public transit and her car was broke down the children were not able to make it to school that day.
On Janie’s most recent visit, she came for help with her Avista bill. She had fallen behind and her power was scheduled to be turned off. Our Place was able to pay $143 toward her bill and prevent a disruption of power. Last year, Our Place successfully prevented the power or water from being turned off for 150 families.
We also gave Janie some shoe vouchers for her children so they could go to Payless and pick out some nice, new tennis shoes for school. We were able to talk about other resources out there as well, particularly for job searches. She wants to work. Right now they survive on TANF and food stamps.
“It is so hard with three kids and doing it all on your own,” she admits. “I feel some stability, but some days I want to forget everything and run away. I wake up and say, ‘I can do this. I can do this.’”
Last week Janie went to a Job fair. She says, “Hopefully it will turn out. I won a Lane Bryant gift card.” This week she said the phone has been ringing, with job offers! When we talked, Janie said, “I really need it and I really want the jobs.”
Things are really looking up… job offers, kids in school, apartment, healthy food on the table and the car is fixed. “I have some gently used clothing my kids have outgrown,” Janie asked. “I would like to give back. Could you use them down at Our Place?”
Yes we could, yes we could.
Thank you so much for letting us tell your story Janie and thank you so much to all who support Our Place so we may have the resources to help someone who gets knocked down and needs a hand up – not a hand out.