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Spokane joins events for Hunger, Homelessness Awareness Week

By Yvonne Lopez-Morton

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Nov. 13 to 20, is an opportunity to educate people on stereotypes about, the impact of, and solutions to hunger and homelessness.

Deidre Jacobson
Deidre Jacobson converses with Miryam's House resident.

Co-sponsored nationally by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the Spokane Homeless Coalition is coordinating local efforts.

Various local initiatives will urge action by the community, government leaders, businesses and media.

“This is a time to learn what the real issues are in our community when it comes to homelessness,” said Madelyn Bafus, chair of the coalition’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Committee.

She said the Spokane City Council will read a proclamation recognizing Spokane’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week at 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14, in the City Council Chambers.

Spokane County will also read a proclamation at the County Commissioner Hearing, 5:30 p.m., Nov. 8, lower level of the Public Works Building, 1029 W. Broadway.

The coalition is leading a city-wide homeless winter-needs drive 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 15 with drop off sites at the Homeless Resource Center, 520 Walnut and at Valley, North and South side Shopko stores.

Items needed include new and gently used coats, gloves, scarves, winter boots, socks, hand warmers, plastic ponchos, shampoo, toilet paper, detergents and dog food.

Throughout November, Our Place Ministries at 1509 W. College will accept these items from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

The Spokane Mental Health Homeless Outreach Team’s annual Winter Wear Pick Up is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18, at First Covenant Church, Second and Division.

From 7 to 10 a.m., also on Friday, the Global Credit Union, 1520 W. Third Ave., will receive personal care items.

Transitions’ Women’s Hearth is hosting an open house from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 902 W. Second Ave. A concert at The Bing Crosby Theater follows.

For 20 years, the Women’s Hearth, a women’s drop-in day center, has been a safe, welcoming place in downtown Spokane where homeless and low-income women can access services and find community and opportunities for personal growth.

“We are now seeing about 85 women a day, when just two months ago we were seeing 60 women a day,” said Dia Maurer, director of Transitions.

Today we have 10 times the number of calls than we can help from women seeking transitional housing at Miryam’s House and Transitional Living Center,” she said. “Almost half of them have zero income.”

“Food for Thought,” an annual community dinner will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 17 at Shalom Ministries, 518 W. Third Ave. The meal is provided, prepared and served by students at Gonzaga University and Whitworth University.

“This dinner is an occasion to have a personal conversation with someone who is homeless and put a face to homelessness,” said Madelyn.

The need for information and access for food, cash and medical resources will be addressed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18 when Washington Department of Social Health Services eligibility specialists will accept and process applications for assistance at First Covenant Church, Second and Division.

According to a 2007 report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), on any given night about 750,000 men, women and children are homeless in the United States.

Spokane County’s One Day Count of Homeless last January revealed that 1,273 citizens were homeless, including 359 children.

The next One Day Count is January 26, 2012 in conjunction with the Homeless Connect Resource Fair.

Statistics show that a high number of homeless live in shelters and transitional housing while others are living without shelter.

Over a year, the NAEH reports that between 2.5 and 3.5 million people will live either on the streets or in an emergency shelter.

To allow more people to avoid freezing temperatures, the City of Spokane’s Human Services Department is asking the community’s social service agencies to apply to be “warming centers” for the homeless this winter. The city will request that selected sites be opened, starting this month and continuing through Feb. 28. These centers will be in addition to regular homeless shelters throughout Spokane.

America’s homeless people represent all demographics, including single men and women, more than 600,000 families with 1.35 million children and more than 100,000 veterans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service has reported that nearly 50 million Americans, including almost 17 million children, are also food insecure and do not know where they will find their next meal.

According to Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest, food distributions at their food bank outlets have increased 60 percent over the past three years.

“We have seen an unprecedented number of people seeking food assistance,” said Melissa Cloninger, director of corporate and community relations. “This is the new norm, and we expect to see higher numbers of people for the next five to six years.”

Second Harvest is once again collaborating with KREM TV and weatherman Tom Sherry for the annual Tom’s Turkey Drive, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18 and 19.

Community members may visit any Rosauers grocery store and purchase a turkey or full dinner or make a cash donation between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Volunteers will be available to receive donations.

Last year, Tom’s Turkey Drive raised more than $100,000 and provided more than 10,000 holiday meals. The meals will be distributed 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 22 at the Salvation Army, 222 E. Indiana. Recipients must have an ID and proof of their current address such as a utility bill.

“People start lining up hours ahead,” said Heather Byrd, Salvation Army’s director of development and communication, “and this year we are expecting more people than ever.

“Many people who come to us for assistance today were once donors and now find themselves in need because of loss of income or jobs,” she said.

Heather said it takes more than 500 volunteers to assist with the distribution from intake and monitoring parking to one-on-one distribution. To volunteer, call 329-2721.

In addition to Thanksgiving dinner distributions, people can sign up to receive toys for their children through Toys for Tots.

Faith events include two memorial services to honor homeless people who have died.

One service is at noon, Friday, Nov. 18, at Central United Methodist Church, 518 W. Third Ave., and a second service is at noon, Monday, Nov. 21, at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ, 411 S. Washington.

Other events include the Oxfam Hunger Banquet from 1 to 2:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 10, in the Lair at Spokane Community College, and a Hunger and Homeless Awareness Walk, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 20, starting at at 1101 College St.

According to SCC student organizer Cole Gerard, the Hunger Banquet’s goal is to help people see what poverty really looks like. Guests will randomly select a paper from a basket that indicates if they are from a low, middle or high income area of the world and will be fed according to local traditions.

“Those who picked low income will sit on the floor and be served rice and water. Those who pick middle income will be seated in chairs and go through a buffet line to get their rice and beans. Those who pick high income will be seated at tables and served spaghetti, salad and juice,” Cole said.

In Coeur d’Alene, the following events are planned:

• The first annual “Run a Mile in their Shoes,” 5-K Run/ Walk and pancake breakfast begins at 9 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 12, behind O'Shay's Pub, 313 Coeur d'Alene Dr. For information, call 208-664-3095 or online at stvincentdepaulcda.org under event. The event is a benefit for St. Vincent de Paul’s veterans’ programs, recognizing that 20 percent of the nation’s homeless are veterans. St. Vincent’s programs include temporary and long-term housing, food, clothing and case management.

• There will be a “Candlelight Vigil for the Homeless” from 5:30 to 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14 at Independence Point. For information, call 208-664-3095.

• "Souport the End of Homelessness: Soup-Off Contest” will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 17, at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds, 4056 N. Government Way. The contest will feature more than 25 soups served by 15 celebrity waiters, plus an opportunity for people to vote for their favorite soup. Proceeds support the St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho Warming Center for homeless people during cold winter months. For information, call 208-664-3095.

From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, is the first annual "Hoops for the Homeless: 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament," at the Kroc Center, 1765 W. golf Course Rd. This event also supports the warming center. For information, call 208-659-2363 or email marvins@kleinsdki.com.

For information, visit www.nationalhomeless.org, www.studentsagainsthunger.org or www.spokanehumanservices.org/homeless-coalition.