Trip to Colville!
Homelessness isn’t confined to big cities--it’s just more visible there
People living unsheltered in a state of hopelessness is not just an urban phenomenon in our current economy—nor are concerted efforts to make a dent in the problem confined to big cities. Colville, the town of roughly 5000 a very pleasant hour and a half drive north of Spokane that serves as the county seat of Stevens County, is also affected (among, I suspect, many other towns we hear even less about). In Colville there are tensions between those trying to address homelessness humanely and local government, much like the tensions we find in Spokane.
I have twice visited the Hope Street Projects in Colville with tours organized by Suzi Hokonson. I highly recommend taking advantage of one of the tours described below—to see, on a smaller scale than Spokane, what dedicated individuals working with the disadvantaged can accomplish for the welfare of our fellow humans. (Note the pejorative baggage that more than fifty years of concerted Republican think tank propaganda have attached to the word “welfare”. It is time to take back that word, along with “woke”, “patriot”, and “freedom”.)
Here’s the invitation to the Colville tours:
We have set up 3 tours of the Colville Hope Street Projects.
They will be Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday - July 12th, 13th, and 14th, at 9:15 AM.
We will meet at the Yep Kanum city park on the corner of Hawthorne Ave. and Elm St. in Colville.
Lunch and visits with local activists at the park 11:30-12:15.
Please help spread the word and notice the change to 9:15 and also that we are meeting at the Yep Kanum city park.
To sign up contact Suzi Hokonson 508-808-1255 email@example.com
To whet your appetite for a pleasant, educational, and inspiring outing I’ve pasted below an article written by Shane Gronholz, who recently visited. The article was originally published by RANGEMedia.co to which I highly recommend subscribing.
Keep to the high ground,
by Shane Gronholz
June 23, 2023
As Current Affairs Specialist for Spokane Public Library, I follow Spokane’s homelessness issues closely. So, when I was invited to tour a housing and job-training project, Hope Street, in Colville by plugged-in community member Suzi Hokonson, I was all ears.
On a golden May morning, I made the beautiful hour-and-half drive north to Colville to check it out for myself. The Hope Street Project, in this town of 5,000, offers a refreshing antidote to what can seem like the insurmountable challenge of homelessness. Hope Street combines job training with housing access, teaching valuable job skills that in turn can be used to build the housing needed in the community.
Founded by Barry and Shelley Bacon, The Hope Street Project is a non-profit that intertwines the process of recovery and empowerment with the creation of homes for the housing insecure. The non-profit side seeks to renovate or build new housing that unhoused people can call home, either as a rental tenant or through a rent-to-own program. The individuals doing the renovation are the same community: people experiencing homelessness, people in substance abuse recovery, and people recently released from incarceration. They are employed by Hope Street’s for-profit arm, Hope Street Restoration, where they’re given on-the-job training and the prospect of stable employment.
In this symbiotic relationship, local community members have the opportunity to work on restoration projects while rebuilding their own lives. By learning new skills and earning an income, these individuals are not just building houses — they’re building a foundation for their own futures. The for-profit arm also sells some renovated houses on the open market, meaning the employees aren’t just building their own houses, they’re building the community as well. This spirit of giving creates a virtuous cycle. On Fridays and weekends program participants often bring their skills to volunteer building affordable housing which will be available to the currently homeless.
On the day of my visit, I was part of a group that included Council Member Karen Stratton and her assistant, Kelly Thomas, visited Barry’s clinic and then went to see a small home that had been renovated by Hope Street. The resident smiled and gave us a neighborly wave. This home was one of several that Hope Street has built or restored for local homeless families and individuals. It’s worth noting that the home was quite lovely, aesthetically speaking. A place a person might choose to live.
Barry then suggested we take a look at what is currently available for the kinds of folks Hope Street is seeking to help: the local “shelter.”
Expecting a building, I was puzzled to find that the shelter was nothing more than a gravel lot, upon which people could park an RV or set up a tent. Seeing this was a stark reminder of the inadequacy of our existing systems. At the dozen or so camp sites occupied at the time, men, women, and children found themselves relying on thin canvas walls for protection against the elements, and their only sense of permanence came from a parking spot. It was a sobering testament to the harsh realities of homelessness, and underscored the importance of initiatives like Hope Street.
After visiting the restored house and “shelter,” we dropped by a mansion the Bacons are restoring, the profits from the sale of which will go back into Hope Street. This historic 1906 home is their biggest project yet: a 3,800 -square-foot, five-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath house in need of tender, loving care.
When finished, it will sell in the $500,000 range, Shelley Bacon estimates.
We also visited a half-acre lot, which will be the construction site for Conestoga-style “tiny homes” that will sell for just $1,200. An additional seven acres has been acquired and set aside for the placement of these homes, but there are some outstanding issues about zoning and permitting that need to be worked out.
Our tour ended with lunch at the park under a gazebo. Two reporters from the local paper showed up, and at one point, one of them called for our attention. She wanted to tell us what the Bacons had done for her. She was a young mother recovering from substance abuse with a long criminal history. Her life was in a downward spiral until she found Hope Street.
After that, another man, whom we had already met when we visited the mansion, told us how he too was an ex-convict and recovering alcoholic. He’s since been employed by Hope Street and his story echoed the one before.
Both said they would be dead if they hadn’t found Hope Street.
On the way back home to Spokane, it was hard to think about the hope I saw growing in Colville and the contrast with the challenges we face here with a growing homeless population and deepening housing crisis. While I don’t claim to have the answers, it’s evident that a collective effort, public support, and a willingness to explore a variety of solutions will be crucial. As we celebrate the successes of initiatives like Hope Street, we must also confront the stark realities in our own backyard and commit to seeking meaningful progress.
The purpose of the trip was to visit Hope Street and see the work they are doing, but what made the strongest impression on me was the Bacons themselves. Whatever one thinks about the value of the work they are doing, one thing is undeniable: The Bacons are happy. The joy they radiate when you are in their presence is impossible not to notice. When Shelley pulled up to meet us, she greeted Barry with a hug and a kiss and it was like there was nowhere she would rather be.
Aristotle spoke of virtue and the concept of eudaimonia. Very roughly, the idea is that living a virtuous life is the path to happiness. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, no one’s life has illustrated this better to me than the Bacons.
The example set by the Bacons and their work with Hope Street is inspiring on an individual level. At the same time, I sincerely wonder what lessons can be gleaned for Spokane and our region as a whole. I genuinely don’t know. Is it possible that in making the necessary sacrifices to address our own homelessness crisis, we might not only create a more equitable society, but also find a deeper sense of fulfillment and happiness in the process?