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Supporting Spokane’s Homeless and Their Pets: The Safe Spokane Initiative

What would you do if you were to experience a crisis that led to homelessness? An estimated 3.5 million people experience this each year. The odds of becoming homeless in America are 1 in 200.

Many of us are only a medical emergency, an eviction, one major emergency away from experiencing poverty and homelessness as well.

In 2022 Spokane documented 1,757 people without homes. That number increased by 36% by April of 2023, with a total of 2390 documented people experiencing homelessness.

safe spokane, homelessness

What Caused This Increase In People Experiencing Homelessness?

There are three big factors at play here. Those factors are: a lack of a support network, housing has become unaffordable for many people, and substance abuse. 

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Substance abuse only contributed to 12% of the population’s struggle with homelessness. Many people seem to have a skewed view of homeless people, associating the homeless population with crime and drug use. I think it is important to remember that many of us are only a medical emergency, an eviction, one major emergency away from experiencing poverty and homelessness as well. 

Changing the Narrative

The way we speak about people matters. It affects how stigmatized people are, how they can access help, and how we view them overall. Being inclusive in your speech is the first step to being able to help. 

When we use terms like “bums,” “the homeless,” or “hobo,” it can be derogatory and takes the humanness out of the term. It becomes easier to associate them with negativity, an object, or just a large group instead of remembering that each one of the 2390 people is just that, people. 

“People experiencing homelessness” is a great way to incorporate more positive vocabulary.

It is important to remember that those experiencing homelessness have stories like you and I. They have hopes, dreams, families, and memories like everybody else. These are people who have fallen on hard times and are now at a disadvantage and dealing with an uphill battle to enjoy the things that many of us take for granted.

I think many of us recognize the issue with our growing population of people who are experiencing homelessness and want to help fix this growing issue. 

Do you know what programs are out there to help protect and care for your family if you end up in a crisis?

Luckily, there are many resources and organizations that have begun or are continuing to do outreach. 

There are a lot of well-known resources making waves in our community, such as Chas, Jewels Helping Hands, and Catholic Charities. 

They help by identifying the needs and barriers, like childcare, nutrition, and health.

These organizations are amazing at helping people with food, clothes, housing, and medical attention. 

However, some aspects of homelessness, poverty, or struggle are often overlooked but just as important.

What obstacles may we face in our own life at some point, and how do we ensure that we prevent things from becoming unmanageable in our own lives?

More often than not, people face quite a few barriers and obstacles before they reach the point of being without a home. 

These include things like not being able to afford childcare but needing to work or to leave a domestic violence situation but not knowing where to bring your kids, pets, or even yourself. 

This could also look like needing to go to appointments or the doctors but not being able to find care for your loved ones or having the means to get there and, in turn, having more significant health issues. 

Life would look very different for many people if they could find resources to help them maintain before they get to that point.

One aspect of struggling that people forget to consider is what to do with animals in a crisis. Pets are a big part of our lives. They are family. For some people, their pet is all they have.

safe spokane, homelessness

SAFE Spokane

A local organization that identifies the obstacle of where to shelter pets is Safe Spokane.

Sometimes people will not take animals to shelters, or they may be unable to afford to have them boarded elsewhere as they try to get on their feet. 

It can be extremely stressful and disheartening to know that your pet may be neglected or not have proper care if you cannot afford it or manage it. 

But no need to worry, Safe Spokane is here to help!

safe spokane, homelessness

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Terri, the woman who started Safe. She wants to help people in our community by providing the safe, loving environments that our pets deserve when we’re in need. 

Her outreach spans across Spokane County. 

She wants people to know that safe is not ONLY for people experiencing homelessness! It is there for anyone who needs it.

In fact, Safe stands for “safe animals for everyone.”

Safe aims to support people experiencing homelessness, a medical emergency, people in domestic violence situations, divorce, addiction, and more! 

She told me a story of someone who had a medical emergency. The man was having chest pains but did not want to go to the hospital for fear that his pet would not be taken care of! 

Terri was able to help him by reassuring him that if he needed someone to take care of his animal, he could count on Safe. Just knowing he had options allowed him to feel comfortable enough to go to the hospital and get checked out.

The mere existence of Safe offered a solution to an issue that could have ended up being life-threatening for this man. 

By helping animals, they are, in turn, helping people by providing some relief in extremely stressful situations and by taking care of an important member of their family.  

Safe foster families keep in contact with the pet owners by sending them pictures of their pets and giving them updates. 

They work closely with people to provide comfort, relief, and support in these hard times.

She also told me that they have helped foster pets while people are in transitional housing. 

This provides people with the comfort that they have options and have time to get on their feet so they can reunite with their pets as they improve their circumstances. 

The volunteers believe in helping people who do not know where to turn. One way they help is by coordinating transportation to get the pets to the foster family and providing respite care or fostering them for up to 60 days. 

They determine the needs of the individual and figure out a plan to best support these people in their times of need. 

S.C.R.A.P.S has offered to help Safe with food and leashes, and some supplies. 

Spokanimals helps via the PetSmart foundation by helping the animals of anyone facing homelessness that won’t take them to shelters. 

They ensure that pets are properly vaccinated, groomed, spayed, and have their medical needs taken care of! 

You can trust that when Terri or one of the other volunteers at Safe is caring for your animal that they are safe and loved. 

How to Help SAFE Spokane

Well, for starters, Safe needs volunteers! Volunteer needs include fostering, respite care, and transporting animals to their temporary foster homes. 

If you don’t have the time to volunteer, they can also use donations! 

Donating can help with all the supplies and necessary items that come with caring for these animals. 

Terri invited me to her home, where she showed me an area where she would like to build kennels and more room for animals so that they can help even more people.

Donations would be used for caring, fostering, transporting, supplies, and general upkeep for the animals. 

The more volunteers and donations they have, the more families they can help! 

Beyond volunteering as a foster family, transporting, or donating, they could also use a web designer and someone to help with social media to reach more people.

Since February, they have helped 22 pets! They have a Facebook page, “SAFE Spokane,” where you can find information on what pets need help and ways to support families in need through caring for their animals. 

SAFE’s goal is to have a Safe organization in more communities than just Spokane and to be able to see Safe in other cities and to have a group of volunteers to help out the community with pet needs. 

To be a volunteer, you can reach them via instant message through their Facebook page to find their application process.  

You can also email them at [email protected]

If you want to donate, you can donate at Numerica Credit Union to Safe Animals for Everyone. 

They also have a Venmo @Safespokane-.

April Gilbreath

April Gilbreath has a degree in integrated community services (social work) and is returning in the fall for a second degree to pursue her Bachelor’s in Integrated Community Services. She has researched mental health for personal edification and has been to therapy and would love to share what she has learned with others.

read more from april here.

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  1. I’m interested in hearing more. I’m a counselor at the CRC and this information is not included in our crises manual. Would phone, email, zoom or face to face work best?

    1. Hi Liz! If you are interested in learning more about Safe Spokane a great way to find more info is by contacting them on their Facebook page or emailing [email protected]
      I hope that helps please let me know if there is anything else I can help with!

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