SPOKANE, Wash. — The Beatriz and Ed Schweitzer Haven, a 50-unit permanent supportive housing complex, had its grand opening on Friday morning. This new building is to help people exiting chronic homelessness.
Cities across the nation are grappling with homelessness and Spokane is no exception. On Monday, the City Council acknowledged there's a severe housing shortage that's making the situation even more difficult.
Schweitzer Haven actually started housing people in late 2019 through 2020 but is just opening up to the public because of pandemic guidelines.
"I think we're both still a little bit of shock," Ed Schweitzer said.
Spokane has a housing problem and has had a shortage for years. Ed and Beatriz Schweitzer saw community members struggling, so they worked with Catholic Charities to provide 50 new homes for those experiencing homelessness.
"I feel so amazed about how the community comes together to help the most vulnerable," Beatriz Schweitzer said. "That makes me feel very good as a human being."
"We are the lucky ones," Ed said. "Our worst day is probably better than many people's best day."
Ed's desire to help the most vulnerable comes from watching his dad. As a kid in Chicago, he said his father would go downtown and invite people without homes into his. His father would give them jobs and a place to warm up in the winter.
"That was his personal mission, which is similar to what goes on here at a much larger scale," he added. "It made me think about my father today."
He helped design the building, working with Catholic Charities and the City of Spokane to invite the most vulnerable people in. The organization said the City did a vulnerability assessment, and the 50 deemed to be that most at risk were moved in.
Each room is for one person. It includes a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. The pantry and bathroom are fully stocked when they move in.
"We can't forget that there are those who just can't help themselves," Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane Tom Daly said. "That's why we have to care for them."
The Bishop blessed the dedication and a brief program about homelessness in Spokane followed. Then, they held a reception with food and offered building tours.
"They are no longer homeless, they have a home," Ed said. "It's here."
The complex also provides services, including case management, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling and assistance in locating and maintaining employment. But most importantly, a safe place to call home.
"I believe that this operation here is helping people move from off the street, to stabilize their lives, and then even begin to be employed, and feel dignity and their worth," Ed added.
The residents don't have to pay rent, since the federal government gives full fair market rent checks for all of their community members. For those who start working, they are allowed to contribute a "little bit, but never more than 30%," Catholic Charities director Rob McCann said.
Catholic Charities now has 1,400 units, according to McCann. He added that they are working on three more projects for housing right now, but they won't stop until everyone has a home.
The complex is located at 9 East 1st Avenue in Spokane.