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Kristen and Heather are sisters. They are college students at Spokane Community College (SCC), they are single mothers, and they’re each other’s biggest supporters.

They are also homeless. They had lived at the Open Doors shelter for about two weeks when I met them in mid-August.

We sat on a park bench outside the shelter so that the sisters could keep an eye on their children on the playground. Kristen began telling me her story:

“I left Wenatchee because my daughter’s dad has a substance abuse problem and [there was] domestic violence." She got a place in Spokane, but missed rent when she had to buy a car to get to school. Her landlord wasn't willing to wait for the payment.

This was not her first time being homeless. Kristen continued, "We were homeless a lot when we were kids with my mom. So it’s kind of been a whole life-long, up-and-down thing.” Kristen shared that her mom was also homeless because of domestic violence. She worries this repeating pattern will affect her children.

Kristen’s sister, Heather, has a five-year-old daughter. She came up to say a shy hello on the park bench and sat with us. Heather told me about how one morning they woke up to her daughter’s father gone: “He kissed my daughter goodbye while she was still sleeping and then the next day he wasn’t coming back.”

Kristen told me about being a student while staying at the shelter: “Getting through the quarter—we’re literally in the shelter over here, using the hotspots on our phone, trying to use our laptops while everybody’s sleeping, trying to get papers done, our finals week stuff. [Family Promise] was really supportive of it though. Usually you have to have your electronics off and they’re like, ‘Oh no, get it done.’ So we did it.”

“A month and a half ago I would have never guessed that I would have been here,” Heather added. “I was—in July—living normally, got my financial aid, got caught up on my bills.”

“You feel like you’re doing everything right, and then the rug just gets ripped from underneath you. And stuff happens, it’s like a snowball,” said Kristen.

Like her sister, Heather fears that her daughter will fall into the cycle of homelessness: "I want

to break the cycle for my daughter. That’s why no matter what I was going through within the last month and a half, I pushed myself to keep going to school and still maintain my grades. That way I can eventually have a future for her…She’s my main motivation."

I asked Heather what she would like people to know about her story: “When you see homeless people, it’s not just about drugs or alcoholism or it’s people being lazy. It’s actually people who just have a string of bad luck. And for those who are going through it, who are trying their hardest: There is hope."

Update: Heather and Kristin’s families, due to their hard work and partnership with Family Promise of Spokane, are now stably housed in their own apartment. They’re looking forward to finishing their degrees and continuing to build a wonderful life for their kids.

Written by FPS Intern 8/23/2019

Photos were not included at the request of Kristin & Heather.

  • Family Promise Of Spokane

The beginning of it was terrifying. You feel like a horrible person having to put our kids through that, it is not fair. It was February, pouring rain and we were cold and soaked when we arrived at Family Promise’s Open Doors Shelter.

If it weren’t for Family Promise, we wouldn’t be alive today. We would’ve gone hungry and cold. We would’ve ended up under a bridge in a tent.


We moved from Open Doors to the Bridges Program where for three weeks we moved from church to church. We would get up early, but we wanted to change the direction of our life.”

After just 22 days of being homeless, we moved into a rental house with a backyard and a fireplace. Michael got a job at Wal-Mart and I am going to school to be a nurse.

Family Promise loved us like their own. They gave us warmth, food, and shelter. It was like a mom and dad helping us out.

I would love to help other people find homes like what we have. I want everyone to feel what we have.

Thank you for all of your support of Family Promise.”

Michael and Hailey Helms

Family Promise of Spokane Graduates

  • Family Promise Of Spokane

“I knew while earning my degree that I wasn’t meant to work for a big corporation or for-profit company. I wanted to use my skills, talents, and what I was learning to serve a non-profit or a smaller guy, an organization that was doing work on the ground to help others rather than help themselves.”


Hilary works hard to keep Family Promise running behind the scenes.

In the corner of Family Promise’s main office resides Hilary, a smiling face when you walk through the doors. Hilary runs the main office as the Administrative Coordinator. Graduating from Eastern Washington University in 2016, Hilary got her degree in accounting but knew she wanted to work in-depth for a smaller company rather than a big corporation. After graduation, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the Gonzaga University Center for Community Engagement, where she developed and implemented the Zag Volunteer Corps Program (ZVC). It was there that she first came to know about Family Promise. 

“What I really love about Family Promise, and why I was drawn here, is they have a lot of the same values of that program (ZVC), of walking alongside others, meeting people where they’re at, and really seeing others as having infinite worth and being worthy of love. Just because you are experiencing homelessness, doesn’t mean you’re any less than anybody else. You’re just a human and deserve a chance to be happy and successful, like everyone else. I feel very fortunate to work for an organization with these values that allows me to serve my community.” 


“I like to ask people: 'If you were homeless, and scared, and didn’t have anywhere to stay or anyone to turn to, how would you cope with that?' I like to remind them that they don’t know the reasons behind someone experiencing homelessness. It’s not our place to judge a person because of the situation that they’re in. If, as a society, we agree that every person has infinite worth... then our place is to meet people where they’re at and help them to be the best versions of themselves.” 

Hilary doesn't hesitate to provide good care for our kids.

She reminded me of the quote, “We judge others because we judge ourselves.” “I always challenge people to look into themselves and ask, why am I judging this person so harshly?” she said. “You should never judge someone who’s trying to better themselves. Instead, you should be encouraging them along the way.” 

In a closing statement, Hilary said something to me that I think is important for us all to keep in mind, regardless of who we are or what we do: “Making a difference in one person’s life, even if it’s just a small moment, is still making a difference.”

Written by: Grace Wahlman

Date: 7/23/19

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