Family Promise of Spokane opens new shelter to help families with infants

SPOKANE, Wash. — Parents know kids can be a handful. For families without a home, it may be a little bit more difficult to keep things together.

Matthew Gill, 22, has been working hard to make sure his fiancée and six-month-old baby are doing well. They just moved from West Virginia to Spokane and they haven’t been able to find housing.

“This was the easiest and most helpful thing we had since we got in this area,” he said.

The three of them have been staying in Family Promise’s new shelter. It’s called the Family Infant House. The organization created it, knowing it’s not easy for families with kids under the age of one to be in a shelter system.

“When most people think of homelessness, they’re not thinking of babies. Nobody thinks of babies, they think of single individuals, what you see downtown,” said Joe Ader, the executive director of Family Promise. “It’s a significant portion of our population. It’s actually the largest age demographic we see at family promise is under one-year-old.”

Since 2018, Ader says they’ve helped 98 babies in its emergency shelter system. He said they recognized big shelters are not great for kids and moms who just had kids.

Infants don’t have an immune system like older kids or adults do, and having kids in shelters that big, Ader says, could be dangerous. In their new shelter, which is a home located on Mission Avenue, families are able to have their own room and a little more privacy.

“This place is awesome, honestly. Because for a while, we were staying in a car,” Gill said.

Gill and his family were the first few able to break in the new place. A ribbon cutting celebration was held Wednesday for the new place, alongside the sponsors who made it happen, Premera Blue Cross, Providence Health Care and the Women Helping Women Fund.

There are a total of seven bedrooms, but five are occupied right now. Two rooms still need to be renovated before allowing families to move in.

Families can also stay for as long as they need. They just need to try and get back on their feet and look for housing in the meantime. Ader said families normally stay in their shelters for about 68 days on average.

Ader added that it’s important to not only help homeless adults but kids, too, so they can break the cycle of homelessness.

“If we can prevent, reduce the risk of, or limit the experience of homelessness when children are young and help stabilize that family. Not only are we helping the family now, but we are preventing future street homeless down the road,” he said.

In the few weeks Gill and others have been living in the house, it’s helped them realize they’re not alone.

“Just the camaraderie of everybody that’s in the same situation. Not one person has a baby, everybody’s got a baby here. They’re learning from each other,” Ader said.

“It’s nice to have other families, though, I will say that. Someone to talk to, someone who understands,” Gill added. “It’s just nice to have other people to show you’re not alone. There are other families that do struggle.”

If families are in need of a place to stay, Ader says they will have to go through Family Promise’s Open Door Shelter. The organization says it’s also looking for volunteers to help families in its multiple shelters. For more information, click here.