Know them.

When stereotype becomes story, everything changes. 


Tina was working full-time at an adult long-term care facility in Moses Lake when

She found herself stranded. The falling snow illuminated her broken down car, the cold frosting over the windows. Her fingers were blue with the mid-winter chill.

Tina, 30, was fostering her sister’s newborn and caring for her 13-year-old son, Will, at the time. Caring for these two kids was a full time job in itself, without even taking into consideration her actual job. The baby's daycare was on one side of town, while her work was on the other. To not have a car to drive, coupled with the impossibility of navigating bus lines in the middle of winter – made a difficult task nigh on insurmountable.

The consequences were unavoidable. Tina started showing up late to work and eventually lost her job. Without income nor a mode of reliable transportation, Tina started to fall behind on her bills. The bills started adding up, and the state took away her nephew. To add insult to injury, she was evicted a week before COVID-19 swept the nation.

“I was left feeling hopeless,” Tina stated. “I didn’t have anyone that I could turn to.”

For over a year-and-a-half, Tina lived on the streets. She gave custody of her teenager to his father while she survived wherever and however she could. Tina found out she was pregnant in August and gave birth in May of 2021. For the first five months of her baby's life, Tina and her partner Don were living out of their car.

“Life was very hectic,” Tina described, “Imagine trying to change a diaper at 3 a.m. in your car.”

Tina couldn’t fathom trying to navigate another winter on the streets, especially

with an infant. One of Tina’s family members was staying at Family Promise of

Spokane’s Emergency Shelter and recommended that Tina come to Spokane. Tina called Family Promise every day for two weeks until there was space available for her and her family. Tina moved into the organization’s Family Infant House with Don, her baby, and her teenage son in the early fall.

It was here where Tina found a restored sense of hope. “There is a community of people who support you,” she said.

Tina has worked closely with her case manager to identify S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) that have empowered her on a journey towards housing stability.

According to Tina’s case manager, her family has made leaps and bounds since arriving at the Infant House, “ Tina’s growth has been exponential since first coming to us. She is doing anything and everything possible to achieve her goals and create a better life for her children.”

Tina and Don are now both working over 40 hours a week. Tina has been paying off her past landlord debt, saving up money, and is well on her way to moving into a place on her own.

“Family Promise gave me a peaceful place where I could provide stability for me and my kids.”

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Updated: Jan 25

Ashley’s Story

Ashley and her husband have five children. Their youngest was only two days old when they moved from Milwaukee to Spokane to find a better life. They were just like any other family. They thought that starting over would provide them with endless opportunities. Instead, it only gave them heartbreak and despair. They knew it would be hard.

They didn’t know it would entail being homeless for three months.

I asked Ashley why she and her husband decided to move from Milwaukee in the first place. She was adamant that it would be a better place. “Wisconsin is very rough, very violent. My sons won’t grow up thinking it’s okay to sell drugs or kill people… robbing and stealing and things like that happen every day. Shootings, every day. I have a daughter… girls down there glorify being prostitutes. I don’t want my daughter to think that that’s an okay thing to do.” When you grow up on the streets, you tend to gravitate back towards it.

Her husband tried out truck driving, but failed the test for backing up. Ashley is hopeful, though. She takes ownership for the choices her family makes with pride. Instead of blaming her circumstances on others, she walks through them with determination.

She said, “People look at me and they always want to know what my situation is, what’s my story, and how did I end up here. This is a choice. And I know it sounds crazy, but it’s a choice and it’s a choice that I made based on a bunch of history and a bunch of decisions that I borrowed… and I don’t want to go back to places that I’ve already been before, doing things that I’ve already done.”

I asked Ashley what she would say to someone who viewed homelessness as a result of laziness or lack of effort. “They’ve never been there,” she said. “Even me and Brandon being raised in the households that we were, we still wind up in situations like this… Don’t judge nobody just because you think… ‘Oh well, she’s sitting there ‘cause she’s waiting on Section 8.’ That’s not true… We didn’t think that we would be homeless for three months. We thought it would be quicker because we both work. We’re not waiting on Section 8. Right now I’m waiting on a call from an apartment to tell me that my apartment is ready, not Section 8.”

She continued, “Brandon takes care of us. And he works really hard. And people don’t understand the barriers that are put upon you when you don’t have a house. I can’t go back to work, because… even if I did find someone to keep my children, I wouldn’t have anywhere for them to keep them because I don’t know anybody. Everybody I’ve met has come from the shelter. They don’t have anywhere to keep my kids.”

Ashley said of the stereotypes around homelessness, “People don’t understand what homelessness is… because they think that homelessness is people that stand on the side of the road. They don’t realize that it’s people that live in the same house as somebody else.”

This was something that was also hard for Ashley to explain to her five children: “My kids didn’t realize we were homeless, I had to say that to them. ‘We are homeless. We live with your nana on her couch.’ They’re like, ‘No we’re not? We live here with Nana.’ They don’t know. They don’t get it. So I have to say that, and they’re looking at me like, ‘We can’t possibly be homeless. This is our nana’s house.’ But they didn’t understand. I had to tell them that, that this is not our house. You can’t come into other people’s house and take it as your own, you know, you can’t go slammin’ doors. My mama would break your hand, slammin’ doors,” she laughed. The concept of homelessness is so hard to explain to so many kids. Oftentimes they just don't understand that just because they are staying at someone's house does not mean they aren't homeless.

I asked Ashley how homelessness has changed her views on life: “I know that everybody has a story. Just because it doesn’t match with your story doesn’t mean it makes them a bad person. You don’t know what made that person.” No matter who we are, no matter what our background is, we can all end up on the street. It's not a choice or state of mind. For the vast majority, it's just a reality.

While I was interviewing her, she received an email that her family got approved for an apartment through Catholic Charities. She cried tears of joy and immediately began to pack her family’s things from the Family Promise emergency shelter. Ashley’s story is one of hope and delight in the midst of a dark season. Hers is a story of sadness and loss, but also of perseverance and acceptance. The tears she cried were tears of joy because she is home at last. “Home at last, home at last. Thank God I am home at last.”

Ashley and her family moved into their own permanent housing in 2019, and have never looked back.

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Walking into Chuck and Charlise's new home, you are met with a large “Bless our Nest” sign and an abundance of house plants brightening the room. “It's the little things,” Charlise says, “We could never have plants before, anything that required a permanent place.” Now their home is filled with plants and sunshine, a sign they have found that permanence that they so faithfully worked for.

Before Family Promise, Chuck and Charlise were bouncing from motel room to motel room, spending over 50% of Chuck’s full-time income, doing everything they could for their daughter Sophie to have a safe place to sleep at night. This came at as a cost though, as money spent on motel rooms meant less money available for other necessities.

“We didn’t have enough for anything else… it’s a vicious cycle. The further you get in, the harder it is to get out.”

This vicious cycle of poverty and survival is familiar to families that come through Family Promise. Often exhausting all other resources and not having an emotional or relationship safety net, families face homelessness.

Charlise describes the stigma that comes from experiencing homeless as brutal. “People think we are all lazy bums. Many of us are paycheck to paycheck, hardworking, normal people who run into problems and need a little bit of help getting out of it.”

After much searching, this little family found a safe place to land at Family Promise. Because they no longer had motel bills stacking up, they were finally able to save money and create time to find permanent housing. “Being at Family Promise allowed us to save for stable housing.’ And there’s joy in their newly found home: “Our living room is now bigger than the size of the space we were living in in our hotel room.”

On average, 70% of the families served in the shelter program secure housing within 8 weeks. Because of the depth of services and community support, families stay housed, and Family Promise of Spokane provides both prevention and stabilization services to increase our long-term impact.

After Sophie runs to her mother with a warm hug and a picture she drew, Charlise says, “I want consistency for her. I can now concentrate on things like that for her, while in the shelter I could only think of the next 15-20 minutes to get through the day. Now I can dream.”

Your monthly gift of just $24.50 makes dreams - just like Chalise’s - come true.

“The encouragement we received from Family Promise made the difference.”

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