With winter on the horizon and the nights becoming increasingly colder, everyday struggles become that much more difficult for those facing hardship in our communities. Despite a surging economy, many are still facing difficult decisions like whether to buy food or pay a heating bill. Thankfully, North Idaho is filled with generous and caring people who want to look after those most in need, and you will find many of them at one of the area’s longest standing beacons of hope.
St. Vincent de Paul opened its doors 73 years ago to all people regardless of denomination, race or socioeconomic status. Those who work and volunteer here believe if someone is in need, they should do all they can, regardless of who that person might be.
While Coeur d’Alene isn’t dotted with dozens of homeless encampments, it isn’t as if the problem doesn’t exist here. Children are sleeping in cars at night, and parents are struggling with difficult decisions. There is also a portion of the population that has a roof over their head, but that is about all they can currently pay for.
“Most people think St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho offers direction and services to the homeless, which is true,” said Barb Smalley. “However, the majority of the people we help, approximately 88 percent, are not homeless but struggling with some unforeseen circumstance which might make them homeless.”
Smalley is the current development director and has been with the organization for seven years. She has seen demand for certain services rise and fall, and today, one of the biggest challenges is finding affordable housing. Development is moving forward across Coeur d’Alene at breakneck speed, which is excellent for the local economy but can also lead to increased rent—which many of St. Vincent’s clients cannot afford.
St. Vincent de Paul of North Idaho offers different programs for those who are on the verge of losing their housing. Those who are in a crisis situation and have been served an eviction notice or a utility shut-off notice are eligible for rent and utility assistance. The rapid re-housing program helps both those who are currently homeless, living in shelters or on the verge of homelessness get into permanent housing.
For those who are in need of additional services and shelter, St. Vincent de Paul is set up to accommodate many situations.
“We have a shelter for women, a shelter for men—which is the only one in North Idaho, along with housing for seniors, families, people with cognitive problems, the chronically homeless and the low income,” said Smalley.
The HELP Center at 201 East Harrison Avenue in Coeur d’Alene is the entry point for anyone in need. Staff with St. Vincent de Paul is available to help, offer direction and coordinate services with other local nonprofit organizations. The HELP Center sees anywhere from 100 to150 guests per day. St. Vincent de Paul also has a dining hall which is open Monday through Friday and serves between 50 and 100 meals per night in order to meet demand.
Among those seeking assistance through the HELP Center are veterans of our armed services.
“We see many veterans who utilize the services we offer at our Help Center, dining hall, use our shower facility and wash and dry their clothing,” said Smalley.
The shelter always keeps one bed available in both the men’s and women’s shelters for a veteran who needs a place to sleep. Additional services for veterans include transportation to the VA Clinic in Spokane, access to veteran-specific counseling and a layout of educational benefits and entitlements for veterans.
St. Vincent de Paul also leads the charge each spring with the annual Veteran’s Stand Down. Held at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds, the event brings veterans together with services and organizations dedicated to helping them. There is a pancake breakfast, children’s activities, free haircuts and much more.
As the temperature dips, St. Vincent de Paul wants to make sure that no one is left out in the cold at night. From November 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019, St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho offers a warming shelter for anyone in need when the temperatures reach 28 degrees or colder. There is typically a warm meal, blankets and warm clothing available as well.
Like many nonprofits, the mission and work of St. Vincent de Paul can only be accomplished through dedicated volunteers and generous financial donations. Donations big and small all add up in the end, and programs have a lasting impact in the local community.
“Many people at some time in their life will need help. I am so thankful we have a place like our Help Center where people can come for direction and services,” said Smalley.
You can help support St. Vincent de Paul this holiday season by attending the ninth Annual Souport the End of Homelessness luncheon. This event will take place from 11am to 1:30pm at the Silver Lake Mall on Thursday, November 15. You can sample over 45 soups made by local businesses and organizations for only $12. Proceeds from this event will benefit the winter warming shelter.
The best way to learn more about all the services St. Vincent de Paul offers is by taking a campus tour. Contact Barb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 208.416.4716.