Originally a gathering spot for the Spokane Tribe, Spokane has retained the spirit of connectedness through the years – from the mining in the late 1800s, the railroad hub of the early 1900s, the site of the Expo ’74 World Fair, and the historic restoration efforts of the early 2000s. Now, the community has once again come together to prioritize citizens’ needs, collaborate among diverse groups, and deliver results for all residents.
Stabilizing and Housing Homeless Youth
Priority Spokane is an endeavor to create a vibrant future for Spokane County by implementing community-defined goals. After evaluating data and research, a community assessment identified homelessness and mental health as the largest problems facing the county, so in 2015, Priority Spokane began working to stabilize the lives of homeless and at-risk of becoming homeless children in grades K-8. Priority Spokane understood that by housing/stabilizing homeless children, they could prevent them from becoming homeless youth and prevent significant trauma to the student and communities in the future.
Thanks to funding and support from key partners the plan was funded, and in 2016, Priority Spokane contracted with a community expert, Catholic Charities, to help carry out the plan. Priority Spokane’s 25 Steering Member organizations provided additional supervision and guidance for the project.
Priority Spokane placed specially trained Community Health Workers (CHW) in four high need elementary schools and one middle school. Each school was strategically selected based on its location, number of homeless students, and other resources already available within the school. They specifically recognized a need among Spokane’s Marshallese population and placed a community health worker from the Marshallese community in one elementary school where many Marshallese students were enrolled.
Each CHW had access to $10,000 in flexible funding to use to stabilize and/or house families when other resources weren’t available. The project was studied and evaluated over the course of three years.
The program and partnerships resulted in stabilizing and/or housing 80% of the homeless children in the pilot and their families and after three years, 95% of them were still stabilized and/or housed.
Following the pilot project, Priority Spokane recommended looking for opportunities to grow the model to build longevity and trust.
Urbanova: Neighborhood Impact Initiative
Founded in 2016, Urbanova was borne out of Spokane’s vision that an equitable and resilient future will be co-created by the people living in the community. The Urbanova collaboration now includes more than 30 people working in concert to achieve social, economic, and environmental equity and resilience for Spokane.
Urbanova recognizes that technology and data products are not sufficient to improve outcomes for people unless a genuine effort to first understand how people experience the city and its services is made. The Urbanova approach begins by assessing the community quantitatively and qualitatively to guide efforts to improve the lives of residents.
This effort included in-depth interviews with diverse local stakeholders, and included an evaluation and cataloging of hundreds of available quantitative data sets. Community results began to coalesce around three key areas of well-being in the community: 1) safety and security 2) affordability and 3) environmental equity.
Projects developed based on findings include:
An immediate project stimulated by the Neighborhood Impact Initiative was bringing safety and security enhancements to the city project already underway to revitalize Liberty Park. The project expands the University District streetlight and hyperlocal air quality pilot to include Liberty Park and surrounding areas.
Spokane Predictive Analytics – Insights to Prevent Homelessness
Urbanova collaboration partners decided they would like to launch a data sharing pilot to determine if utility payment activity is a valid predictor for at-risk populations. The objective is to provide earlier detection of billing/payment challenges to better facilitate the delivery of wrap-around services for economic or other hardships.
South Landing Eco-District – Improving the Equity of Clean Energy and Smart Grid Projects
Urbanova’s role in this project is to provide advisory, technical, and project outreach services leading to data-informed recommendations to advise how to equitably extend the benefits of the Eco-District to all members of the community.
Spokane Gives Initiative
Spokane Gives began in 2014 as a week-long volunteer event. Today, in partnership with the Spokane County United Way, Spokane Gives takes place annually throughout the entire month of April and serves as an expansion of existing philanthropy in the community and works to build the network between volunteers and non-profits to promote giving year-round.
The Spokane Give’s website functions as a landing page for non-profits to submit service projects and volunteers to sign-up to serve. Over 300 non-profit organizations are connected to the website and thousands of citizens use it to discover short and long-term volunteer opportunities.
A Steering Committee, comprised of key stakeholders, organizes core service projects, develops a mini-grant fund, coordinates outreach efforts, and leads a kick-off event each April.
Service projects have included:
Through donations from local credit unions and businesses, $100-$300 mini-grants are provided to support non-profits in completing service projects. Each year, approximately $10,000 is raised to support almost 35 organization’s service projects.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way was able to send volunteer needs to every registered user of the website, alerting the diverse community to emerging opportunities. Over 1,300 volunteer positions were filled using the website in the first half of 2020.