[SPOKANE, Wash.] The Community Colleges of Spokane are playing a vital part in a project to help people experiencing homelessness in Spokane.
On Friday, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee met with The Catalyst Project’s community partners – including CCS chancellor, Dr. Kevin Brockbank; Lenaya Hogan, corporate and continuing education program manager; and Sarah Reed, communications and corporate training specialist.
The Catholic Charities Eastern Washington (CCEW) launched Catalyst as an “emergency supportive housing program” to help people experiencing homelessness in Eastern Washington. CCEW partnered with multiple community organizations, including CCS, i2-Strategies, Community Health Association of Spokane (CHAS), the Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation.
As part of the project, CCEW renovated a Quality Inn on West Sunset Blvd. to provide temporary emergency housing for people who had resided at Camp Hope – located near I-90 by the Freya/Thor entrance ramp – which was permanently shut down in early June. Last December, the former hotel was reopened, providing 78 private rooms. But the idea behind Catalyst was to provide more than just housing.
“You’ve got to have a variety of different pathways because everyone’s situation is different,” said Kelly Keenan, CCEW’s senior vice-president of advancement & impact. “The whole system is about helping you identify your own goals and get you there to achieve those goals, like people who have been thinking about getting work.”
CCS is a piece of that pathway. In partnership with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the flagger/traffic control program is a one-day, eight-hour class that certifies a person to work in that field. Students who pass receive a Washington certification card that is valid for three years and can be used in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. WSDOT had grant funding to place people through The Catalyst Project into work-to-hire jobs upon their certification.
“We’re happy to be just a small part of this by providing job training,” Chancellor Brockbank said during a Catalyst partner discussion with Gov. Inslee.
In June, eight previous residents of Camp Hope attended the training in Spokane Falls Community College’s Magnuson building. All of them passed the certification.
“Each of them walked out beaming with a flagger certification card in their hand. They felt what it was like to be in a college classroom on a college campus,” said Alissa Muñoz, CCS interim executive director of corporate and continuing education. “One student said in the parking lot as we walked out together, ‘I’m a flagger now. Thank you so much for this opportunity,’ while another student yelled out ‘I’ll flag you down; I know how to do that now!’”
Gov. Inslee expressed his gratitude to Chancellor Brockbank on the flagger certification.
“We really appreciate the community colleges,” Gov. Inslee said. “That’s a fantastic result.”
The owner of i2-Strategies, Colin DeForrest, also emphasized the importance of the flagger program as essential to helping get people back into the workforce.
Four former members of Camp Hope who were part of The Catalyst Project were in attendance at the discussion. All expressed gratitude for the program and its partners. Two talked about the importance of getting back into the workforce. Rob McCann, CCEW’s CEO and President, also talked about the certification’s potential impact.
“We need more programs like what the community colleges are doing,” he said. “Everyone wants the dignity of work, and you’re hearing that today from our participants. So, let’s get folks jobs.”
CCS provides education and services in a six-county region of Eastern Washington, operates Spokane Falls Community College and Spokane Community College and is the largest provider of Head Start and Early Childhood Education in the region. Each year, nearly 30,000 people – from infants to senior citizens – are provided educational services by CCS.