With the punishing sun overhead, Jeff Ford laid it all on the line.
“We came from a very dark, dark place,” the Spokane Falls Community College student said to a tent full of politicians and community leaders Thursday in Spokane. “Our family was separated, and we had no place to go.”
Like many of Spokane’s most vulnerable, Jeff Ford, his wife Jerrica Ford and their three children just needed a little bit of help. For too long they were homeless, in and out of shelters, unable to find work or a means to succeed.
Life continued that way until they found Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington. Soon, the Fords were back on their feet. Some of their kids enrolled at Community Colleges of Spokane’s Head Start programs and just this week, Jeff Ford enrolled at SFCC. Jerrica is soon to start at Spokane Community College.
And if fortune favors, the Fords could soon find stable housing in a brand-new facility.
Surrounding Jeff Ford as he spoke Thursday were the bones of an affordable housing complex called Gonzaga Family Haven, a 73-unit property under construction at the corner of Hamilton Street and North Foothills Drive. It’s being built in partnership with Catholic Charities, Gonzaga University, Gonzaga Preparatory School and with early childhood education provided by Community Colleges of Spokane.
To the right of his wife stood United States Senator Maria Cantwell, who minutes after bladed through photos of the Ford’s children on Jerrica’s phone as they toured the facility.
“Because of them, we’re in college,” Jeff Ford said of Catholic Charities. “We’re better. We’re striving to be better.”
Like the Sister Haven Apartments near SFCC, Gonzaga Family Haven will be suited towards families experiencing homelessness. Support services will include peer support relationships, adult education/employment readiness, personal health and wellness classes, and mentoring/tutoring.
All of these services will be provided through Gonzaga University’s Center for Community Engagement and in partnership with Gonzaga Preparatory School student volunteers.
Additionally, CCS’s Head Start program will run five classrooms at the complex, ready to serve Head Start and Early Head Start children. That partnership was made possible thanks to a $1.6 million contract, furthering the relationship between CCS Head Start and Catholic Charities.
“This is all about housing,” said Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs who spoke at Thursday’s event and who praised Senator Cantwell’s focus on housing. “We’re in a crisis.”
U.S. Senator Cantwell, who made the trip to Gonzaga Haven while Congress is in recess, said this project was unique because of the magnitude of community partnerships that made it a reality.
Cantwell also said the affordable-housing initiative was particularly timely, as her office pushes new legislation that would build more than 66,000 new affordable housing units in Washington, about 6,000 in Spokane, over the next ten years.
A necessity, she said, as areas across the state grapple with low inventory and rising costs.
“We will prove that we all belong,” she said. “And we know how to get affordable housing back into our nation and back into Spokane.”