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Small Cottages Help Homeless In Spokane

Doug Nadvornick

A small cottage village in northwest Spokane is providing shelter to some formerly homeless people.

There are 24 cottages just off Northwest Boulevard in Spokane built by the organization Transitions, which works with the homeless community to find shelter, and provide job training and other services.

Transitions Executive Director Edie Rice-Sauer says the group had toyed with various ideas on how to use the two-acre property, including a community garden or orchard, but thought actual housing would be the best use.

The cottages, ranging in size from 475 to 1,000 square feet, were constructed under the city’s cottage zoning ordinance, which allows for infill in vacant areas of the city with no housing.

Financing for the project came from the state, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, local private foundations and individuals and a capital campaign.

Rice-Sauer says the main thrust was to make the cottages affordable to those who had no other housing options.

“They pay 30% of their income, so it varies a bit on what their income is, for example, if they have Social Security, or maybe funding from the state. It’s just 30% of that. And those funds then help us hire case managers. So this is a little different in that we have case managers on site. Staff members are here to help people figure out if they need some medical treatment, or maybe some mental health care, or maybe they're having some issues with drinking or drugging, and so our staff is responsible for those kinds of concerns,” she said.

The program was offered to those who were homeless and make less than 50% of the community’s median income. Residents are allowed to stay as long as their income meets the guidelines.

There are six studio apartments for singles, as well as two- or three-bedroom cottages for small families. The cottages opened last September and were filled by November. Rice-Sauer says neighbors to the new project for the homeless have been general supportive, and there have been no major problems.

One who moved in to her first home was Miriah Meghan Payne, who says she was living on the streets and addicted to drugs before she ended up in community court after being arrested. There she met someone from Transitions who got her assistance. She was able to kick her addiction, and now, with a place to call her own, she has hope for the future.

“They‘ve made a big impact on my life. They make life so amazing and so much happier, it gives me a lot of confidence to come home to my own apartment, and have my own job, and I have a lot more confidence in myself," she said.

Miriah is also in an on-the-job training program with Transitions, where she is learning to become a barista.

The Transitions staff has also tried to instill a sense of community by holding holiday events like Christmas celebrations in a common room.

Rice-Sauer says the budget for the program will be tight for the next 15 years, but they set up the venture so it is a limited liability corporation, where the investors get tax credits.

It’s estimated that for every 100 low income families who need housing in Spokane, there are only 12 housing units available.

On March 20 SPR will host a live forum on homelessness in Spokane, and also take a look at options for more housing in our community.



Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.