New shelter a safe place for vulnerable women: Spokane, WA, USA

Tom Boland (
Sun, 13 Jun 1999 02:35:56 -0700 (PDT)

HOMELESS PEOPLE'S VIEWS, News, Alerts, Actions & Research
5,000+ ONLINE posts by or via homeless & ex-homeless people

FWD [2 news articles] - Spokane, Washington. USA


The Associated Press


SPOKANE (AP) -- This city that has lost at least eight of its most vulnerable
women to a serial killer is now offering other women living on the street a
safe haven.

The new Downtown Women's Shelter is opening its doors today after more than a
year and a half of community planning and fund raising prompted in part by the
serial slayings.

The shelter will house single women without children regardless of whether they
are sober. No drug or alcohol use will be allowed inside, however.

Until now, such women had no place to go in Spokane, a city of 188,000. All
other women's shelters typically close their doors to those with chemical

That left many such women with few options after the sun set. Frequently, they
sell their bodies in exchange for a place to spend the night, making them
especially vulnerable to a serial killer.

Detectives say all eight women believed slain by the killer in the Spokane area
since November 1997 and two others in the Tacoma area shared high-risk
lifestyles involving prostitution, drugs, or both. Police are looking into as
many as 17 other similar cases for possible links.

Two months after the first victim's body was found, a coalition composed
primarily of social workers and Catholic nuns was formed to look into opening a

One coalition leader is Michael Yates, a police sergeant who has frequently
worked the East Sprague neighborhood that is the hub of Spokane's prostitution
and drug activity.

"We tried to find out why these women were so vulnerable, and one of the
reasons was they had no place to go," he said. "Now they have a safe place to

Saturday was move-in day at the shelter, located in a three-story former
apartment building a stone's throw from Interstate 90 and sandwiched between a
tire dealership and a Teamsters union hall.

Volunteers lugged mattresses into bright, clean rooms featuring donated
furniture, artwork and even a few televisions. Sponsoring organizations and
businesses "adopted" individual rooms by pledging to decorate and furnish them.

"It will be a place women are welcome to come to, that we want them to come
to," said Lynn Everson, coalition president and a Spokane Regional Health
District outreach worker.

An emergency shelter open daily from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. will begin operating on
the building's first floor Monday.

On June 21, 19 studio apartments on the upper floors will begin serving as
long-term residences for women whose applications are accepted. No strict
limits will be placed on the length of stay.

Shelter director Diane Leigland hopes the center will serve as a place for
residents to enter treatment for drug, alcohol and mental health problems and
leave street life behind.

"Even without the activity of the serial killer, women get beaten up and
molested out there," Leigland said.

Finding a shelter location wasn't easy. Coalition members initially hoped to
use a former detox clinic on East Sprague Avenue.

That idea was shelved because of objections from nearby business owners tired
of having their neighborhood labeled a haven for crime. They argued the shelter
would solidify the reputation.

Coalition members settled on the new location after finding no opposition from
neighboring businesses.

About $98,000 in private donations enabled to shelter to open. An estimated
$225,000 will be needed to keep the shelter operating each year, so Leigland is
pursuing several public and private sources.

Donated items and volunteer help likely will always be needed.

"We still need plenty of funding," Leigland said. "It's critical to our staying

Eds: People interested in contributing can call (509) 455-2886, or send in
checks made out to the Downtown Women's Shelter at P.O. Box 8566, Spokane, WA
The following appears courtesy of the 6/7/99 online edition of The Spokane
Spokesman-Review newspaper:


Volunteers furnish new downtown shelter

Grayden Jones - The Spokesman-Review


Linda Avery put the final touches on her guest room Saturday, laying out fresh
towels, stocking the cupboards with dinnerware and the freezer with with ice

She left purple hand soap by the sink. Covered the bed with a yellow quilt.
Poised fluffy cow slippers in the closet.

All this for a woman Avery has never met. A woman who may arrive with no
suitcase, no money and no hope. She may be a prostitute, a carrier of AIDS or
mentally ill.

``I want her to have all the stuff she'll need if she shows up with only a
purse,'' Avery said from the second floor of the Downtown Woman's Shelter.
``This is going to be a room of sunshine.''

Avery joined dozens of volunteers Saturday to furnish and decorate Spokane's
first shelter for homeless women. At least 15 organizations, including Avery's
employer, Oxyfresh Inc., have adopted apartments to furnish, said shelter
director Diane Leigland. Hundreds of others have donated furniture, wall
hangings, clothes and appliances that volunteers sifted through to furnish
three dozen rooms.

``Some people may think of a shelter as a rickety old building where we've
slapped some paint on,'' Leigland said from the mauve-colored lobby. ``But I
think they'd be surprised to see this.''

The shelter, located at 111 W. Third Ave., on Monday will open its short-term,
17-room emergency shelter. Another 23 apartments will open June 21 in the
four-story building.

Leigland and others have worked 18 months to provide a safe haven for women who
are abused or on the streets. A rash of murders targeting prostitutes fueled
the effort as community organizers sought a solution for the safety of women
most at risk.

The facility is so nice that Leigland has concerns that it will fill up too
quickly, leaving some homeless woman with no place to go.

Plans already are in the works to expand the shelter if necessary.

Not every woman can be admitted. For instance, the shelter cannot take women
who arrive with children.

The emergency shelter will serve single, homeless women from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
Guests may be chemically dependent, though alcohol, drugs and weapons are not
allowed on the premises, Leigland said.

The apartments will house homeless women who have a physical or mental
disability but are committed to sobriety, and eventually, independence. Units
will rent for $325 to $435 per month to those with income, but many guests will
be subsidized at much lower rates, Leigland said.

Spokane County has agreed to subsidize nine apartments; Spokane Neighborhood
Action Programs, four. The shelter hopes to secure a $189,000 federal grant in
2000 that would subsidize the remaining 10 apartments for another five years,
Leigland said.

Leigland said she expects the shelter's annual operating cost will exceed
$300,000. She said the organization has an option to buy the building, formerly
known as the Del Mar Apartments, from downtown developer Mick McDowell.

It's worth every penny, said Betty Harrington, a volunteer with another
sponsor, the Providence Associates.

``This is such a need in the community,'' she said, showing a pair of handmade
pinewood tables donated by the Associates. ``This provides an opportunity for a
lady to experience a new lifestyle and regain some self-respect and esteem.''


5,000+ POSTS by or via homeless & ex-homeless people
Nothing About Us Without Us - Democratize Public Policy