Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 15th Marks the Beginning of National Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week

His name was Tim. He died a few months ago from injuries suffered in an auto accident. He was not a well-known community member nor was he a successful business person. But he also is not forgotten. A longtime member of the Sandpoint community, Tim was homeless and suffered from mental illness. He spent nights at homes of acquaintances and often sought shelter under the Dover Bridge.

On Tuesday, there will be a candlelight vigil to celebrate Tim’s life and to remember other homeless people who have lost their lives.

The vigil is one of many events taking place locally this week, National Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week. Sponsored by Transitions in Progress, these events are an opportunity to inform Sandpoint residents about the homeless in the community and let residents know what they can do to help.

“We will have an event almost every day of the week,” said Craig Koester, president of the board of directors for Transitions in Progress, formerly known as Bonner County Homeless Task Force.

Because the homeless are not visible on downtown streets like those in large cities, there is a misconception that homelessness is not an issue here. But the truth is the homeless population is growing considerably and Transitions in Progress is doing all it can to help not only the homeless but also those who are victims of domestic violence.

Transitions in Progress has several properties around Bonner County that house families, women and their children escaping abusive situations, and women who are single and in transition.

Harmony House is the only fully staffed 24-hour shelter in the county for victims of abuse.

“This is important because these things (abuse) do not happen 8 to 5,” said Koester. “To stay (in an abusive relationship) is not an option. We give people a path that provides hope.”

Cherie Peak is the director at Harmony House. She said that they also provide the only state-approved battered treatment program in Bonner or Boundary counties.

“We also provide support groups as well as outreach and education in the community,” said Peak.

Although there has been a decrease in the number of women seeking shelter over the past couple of years, Peak said that is beginning to change.

“The numbers are starting to rise again, and I suspect it has to do with the economic downturn,” said Peak. “The economy has always been a trigger (for violence).”

But homelessness and abuse are not independent of one another.

“Between thirty to forty percent of people we consider homeless are direct victims of domestic violence,” said Koester, emphasizing that abuse does not always mean physical abuse.

“Abuse takes many forms,” said Koester. “Emotional, financial and psychological.”

A longtime advocate for the homeless, Koester devotes much of his time to Transitions in Progress which, due to lack of funds, is currently without an executive director.

“We have three program managers who operate independently and report to the board,” said Koester, who is writing a new business plan for Transitions. “My biggest job is outreach and awareness and asking for support in any way possible.”

Another Transitions in Progress properties is Blue Haven. Located in Sandpoint, it provides transitional housing for up to nine families. Blue Haven director Tamie Martinsen said she has seen higher socioeconomic classes coming to apply for help.

“We have had professionals contacting us this year – people who have never found themselves in this situation and who don’t even know how to apply for food stamps,” Martinsen said.

She said there are currently seven families on the waiting list.

“We are always full,” Martinsen said.

When Transitions does not have room, Martinsen said she often refers people to Coeur d’Alene or Spokane.

“That is hard because people don’t want to leave their communities,” she said.

The Trestle Creek Friendship Center, which is located on a five-acre property, offers several three-bedroom, two-bath homes for families and a four-bedroom home for single women.

The facilities operated by Transitions in Progress house approximately 60 to 70 people, more than half of them children. “If they weren’t at our facility they would be homeless,” Koester said.

“Our goal is to keep families together.”

Koester and the staff at Transitions in Progress hope that this week’s events will enlighten the community about the needs of the homeless and victims of abuse in Bonner County.

“We need to give people a chance, give people direction and give them hope, and then they are able to go out and become productive members of society,” said Koester

Sandpoint Events For Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week


Priest River Community Meal, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Priest River Senior Center; co-sponsored with Priest River Ministries.


Discussion with public officials: Planning and zoning, mayor, City Council, police, sheriff, county supervisors, 5:30 to 7:45 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, Fourth and Alder, Sandpoint.
Candlelight vigil in remembrance of Tim Fury and other homeless people who have died. This event will feature the drum and pipe corps; 8 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, Fourth and Alder, Sandpoint.


Community Feast, noon to 5 p.m., Sandpoint Gardenia Center.


Transitional Housing Open House, 1 to 3 p.m., Trestle Creek Supportive Housing, 71 Freeman Lane, Hope.
For more information about services provided by Transitions in Progress, or to offer help, call (208) 265-2952

No comments:

Post a Comment