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Church group working to build transitional housing for Sandpoint homeless

by RACHEL SUN
Staff Writer | February 20, 2021 1:00 AM

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A joint ministry of Sandpoint area churches is working to provide more transitional housing to Sandpoint’s homeless population.

Cathy Pomeroy said she first had the idea for the Good Samaritan Inn shortly after the Sandpoint Church of God, where her husband Jon is a pastor, took over the former Love INC program in 2017, which is now Helping Hands Healing Hearts.

“We realized there's a homeless problem in Sandpoint because we were getting homeless people coming through,” she said. “I feel sad to say that I wasn't really aware of it. Anyhow, we [have become] very aware of it.”

The organization, which is registered as a 501(c) nonprofit, will likely need between $500,000 and $1 million to build everything they’re hoping for, said board Chairman Toby Walrath.

The board of directors is currently looking at properties in Ponderay, he said, and need to meet certain criteria such as proximity to a bus route.

Walrath first heard about the program close to a year ago through the New Song Bible Church, where he’s a member.

“I believe there’s a lot of things in scripture,” he said, “that make it obvious that Christ wanted Christians to help those in need.”

The name for the program, which Pomeroy expects will be done within roughly two years, was inspired by the parable of the good Samaritan in the Bible. There are currently 19 churches involved in fundraising efforts.

Helping Hands Healing Hearts currently offers immediate assistance and referrals to people in need, she said, and she and her husband Jon have had people in and out of their two spare bedrooms for years. But with roughly 14% of the clients who visit being homeless, it became apparent more was needed, she said.

On average, section eight housing has a waiting list of roughly two to three years, she said.

The other main transitional housing in the area, Bonner Homeless Transitions, is always full with a waiting list. Other programs, like the Union Gospel Mission, focus on men, some of whom were formerly incarcerated.

The majority of homeless she sees are women, Pomeroy said, often with one of two children. Most live in their cars, and in total, from January to June there was a total of roughly 249 homeless in the area, she said, with 132 singles, three couples and 40 families including 64 children.

The housing, which area churches are currently fundraising for, would include 20 studio apartments for rent to help fund the program, and 18 studio apartments for the transitional housing.

The program fee, which includes the housing and utilities as well as access to job training, would cost $400 a month, Pomeroy said, and fees would be charged after residents secured a job.

People in the program would also be required to take certain classes including financial management, healthy lifestyle and Bible study, she said.

In addition to this, the board plans for a day center that would include an office, computers, and laundry.

The goal for the program, she said, would be to get residents able to move out and be independent within 90 to 180 days.

Right now, though, all of those goals are still hypotheticals. The board is “well on their way” in fundraising, Walrath said, but they still need to raise more before they can buy land and build units.

“Our board of directors would like to ask for prayers first and foremost from those in the community,” Walrath said. “Prayers for our board and prayers for those in our community.”

Outside of prayers, the board will need monetary donations, he said. Land donations would also significantly cut costs.

Walrath also noted that although the board is working to raise money for transitional housing, they’re still providing food, clothing and other necessities for community members with Helping Hearts Healing Hands.

Donations of food and other food and other goods for those resources are always appreciated, he said.

More information and a link to donate to the Good Samaritan Inn can be found at qhsandpoint.org/the-good-samaritan-inn, or by calling 208-263-6378.