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St. Margaret's Shelter recognized for poverty-cutting efforts

St. Margaret’s Shelter, an emergency and transitional shelter for homeless women and their children and mothers with high-risk newborns in Spokane, is one of four Catholic Charities program receiving a Catholic Charities USA 2008 Family Strengthening Award and $25,000 from the Annie E. Casey Foundation on Sept. 27 in New Orleans.

The awards recognize Catholic Charities programs that take a holistic approach to support healthy family relationships, improve their financial situation and enhance the community as part of the national campaign to Reduce Poverty in America to half by 2020.

“St. Margaret’s Shelter is one of the most innovative programs in the Catholic Charities network working to strengthen families and reduce poverty in America,” said the Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. “By connecting low-income parents to the supports and opportunities they need to be economically stable, this program helps families build better lives and a stronger community.”

Families at St. Margaret’s are headed by women, said Rob McCann, executive director of Catholic Charities Spokane.

“Some come from incarceration or treatment facilities.  Some are fleeing domestic violence.  Some were living in their cars. Some mothers and children are struggling with mental health, addiction or physical health issues,” he said.

In addition to sheltering families, St. Margaret’s helps families overcome barriers to self-sufficiency through case management, tutoring, parenting classes, life skills and job training. Once families leave the shelter, support services continue.

• An economic literacy program offers weekly classes on money management, savvy renting and employment skills.

• Its Portfolio Project offers classes in renters’ rights and responsibilities, empowering them when they sign leases and become tenants. 

• Its community garden gives families access to local, organic produce and helps the mothers develop entrepreneurial skills and earn an income as they sell produce. 

• It plans to partner with a local agency that will open a small deli in Catholic Charities’ new family services center to provide training in culinary and restaurant skills

• In its School Pays Program, school-aged children can participate in a program that “pays” them to attend school regularly, complete their homework and maintain good grades.

• Local university students provide individual attention to help children with homework or reading, offering incentives for improvement. 

The other programs recognized are Our Daily Bread Employment Center in Baltimore, Homebase in Brooklyn-Queens and Kinship Care Resource Network of Rochester, N.Y.

St. Margaret’s Shelter will soon host a visit for Catholic Charities staff from across the country to learn about its program.

For information, call 358-4253.