Catholic Charities

Gonzaga University and Gonzaga Prep partner with Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington to build a housing development for families experiencing homelessness.

Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, Gonzaga University and Gonzaga Prep have joined together to create the Gonzaga Family Haven. The Gonzaga Family Haven is a 73-unit permanent supportive housing development on the corner of North Foothills Drive and Hamilton/Nevada Street, located in the Logan Neighborhood.

Gonzaga Family Haven will be for families experiencing homelessness and will feature wraparound services. These services include on-site social workers, peer support relationships, case management, personal health and wellness classes, health and substance abuse counseling and treatment, access to health care, among other programs.

Gonzaga Family Haven also features many amenities to benefit the wellness of the families. Indoor recreation space, a bike and pedestrian trail, community garden, dog park, reflection space, childcare facilities and more will help foster the community this partnership is striving to create.

Sarah Yerden, director of marketing and communications at Catholic Charities, is one of the staff members handling the public relations aspect of the project. 

“Our goal is to create a community with supportive services embedded onsite to ensure that families have a path to move toward stabilizing their lives,” Yerden said. “This unique partnership between Gonzaga University and Gonzaga Preparatory School is truly amazing, and having students onsite will be incredibly impactful on the children and families living at Gonzaga Family Haven.”

Gonzaga Family Haven is Catholic Charities’ 17th tax credit property, meaning the project is done through leveraging tax credits and no private donations were taken. They were awarded $3 million from the Housing Trust Fund and $5 million from the Jeff Bezos Family Fund to create this program.

Gonzaga Family Haven is open to families served by various Spokane nonprofits who will go through the homeless family coordinated assessment to be placed, or families who have graduated from the Rising Strong Program, a program that serves families who are struggling with substance use disorder. Rent depends on each family and their situation, with on-site social workers available to work with families if rent ever becomes an issue. Yerden emphasized that Catholic Charities is working with families instead of for them to find the best ways to remove the barriers they are facing in having a stable home or employment.

Bailley Wootton, director of strategic partnerships for the Center for Community Engagement, is one of the main GU staff  members involved in the project.

“When the idea of this came up, we were obviously very excited and on board, especially to have something in our neighborhood that also addresses a very important need right now,” Wootton said.

The conversation surrounding Gonzaga Family Haven has been going on for close to two years now. On GU’s side, the concern for more affordable housing was brought up in listening projects through Opportunity Northeast.

Peggy Haun-McEwen, dean of students at Gonzaga Prep, will be moving to be dean of campus at the Gonzaga Family Haven when it opens, tentatively in the fall. The opening date will allow children to begin at their new schools, taking away the stress of starting at a new school later in the year.

As dean of campus, Haun-McEwen will help coordinate with stakeholders and service providers and work as a liaison between Catholic Charities, GU, Gonzaga Prep, the local public schools and the Logan Neighborhood. While she won’t live on campus, her work is centered around the betterment of the campus and the families’ lives.

Ultimately, Gonzaga Family Haven will be influenced by and centered around the families living there. As of right now, most of the residents have not been identified, so having those specific conversations is hard. Wootton said they have been using focus groups and learning what they can from potential families and families living in other Catholic Charities’ family housing complexes to gather information on how they can best serve their needs. From educational classes to fun ones like art and fitness, the partnership wants to support the overall health and wellness of the families as best as they can.

“In the first year, we’re going to work on creating a foundation and having a warm and welcoming environment for kids where they can get to know one another and build relationships,” Wootton said. “Relationships are key. We really want to get to know families first so that the programs we develop are informed by residents.”

The goal is to have many opportunities for GU students to get involved, both long-and short-term. Partnerships with the Haven are being explored across campus.  The hope is to involve GU students through a variety of curricular and co-curricular opportunities.

“That’s where the partnership with GU and Gonzaga Prep is so hope-filled, is that the students will walk the journey with the families and not just do a one-and-done volunteer shift,” Haun-McEwen said.

As educational opportunity  is one of the three pillars of focus for GU's Opportunity Northeast, Wootton believes that will be a focus with the Gonzaga Family Haven programming as well. Through after school programs, they hope to teach kids about all types of higher education and to encourage them to find what will work best for them. Whether that be a four year university, technical school, graduate school or a different type altogether, the Haven wants kids to feel confident to pursue the education that best suits them. Gonzaga Family Haven is also working with schools to break down barriers to make education more attainable, regardless of what barriers there might be.

For more information or to see live construction updates, visit Their website features a brochure and detailed descriptions of the services, amenities, project information and the impact.

“We believe we have to build our way out of homelessness and we’re going to continue to build housing until every family, every child, every person in need has a place to call home,” Yerden said.

Sydney Fluker is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter:  @sydneymfluker.

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