Packed In: Spokane housing crisis makes it even more difficult for women struggling to find a place to live

SPOKANE, Wash. – Women getting out of domestic violence or homelessness are having a harder time finding a place to live. Because of the housing crisis, organizations helping these women are struggling to find affordable housing to help them move on.

Alana Martinez has been staying at Transitions’ Transitional Living Center(TLC) for 16 months now. That’s longer than average. It’s happening because some people staying in shelters can’t find affordable housing.

Martinez’s time ran out for her housing voucher. She ended up living in her car, pregnant, and with her young daughter for nearly a year before finding Transitions.

“There were times I was at a gas station, and I’d have to ask for gas money. Lots of people would tell me no and this would be in front of my kid, and I’d have to go in front of my kid and say why,” she continued. “They’d be like, ‘Why are you asking them for gas money, mom?’ The whole thing is just really hard.”

The organization is trying to help more people like Martinez but can’t because they’re full of people. There are several factors that go into play about why they’re so full, but one big issue is that some people are still waiting to find a new home.

“It’s really hard to know there are women and children out there that don’t have the opportunity to get into TLC. because we can’t find that permanent housing for the women that are already here and ready to move on,” said Sarah Lickfold, with Transitions.

The affordable housing crisis has been an issue that’s been brewing for years. COVID-19 made it worse.

The Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium says waitlists for low-income housing programs are now three years, and they’re in need of thousands of places now.

YWCA emergency safe shelter is also full. It’s an organization that helps mostly women, and men, get out of domestic violence situations.

Jeanette Hauck, the CEO, said their apartments for women are also full, so now they’re left using hotel rooms to give them a safe place to stay.

Housing resources are limited for them, too. When women are ready to move on, they’re stuck.

“Right now, it’s hard to find those apartments for our survivors,” Hauck said. “Even though we have funding from the city and state to help survivors move into apartments, there has to be availability, they have to go through a background check, they have to make an application and be accepted by that particular landlord.”

Finding affordable housing, with a voucher has been tough. Hauck says some of their clients are told there’s a better candidate.

While Martinez’s lease isn’t up until April at TLC, she’s been looking already. Many places have told her there’s a waitlist.

When she asks about availability, she says some landlords automatically tell her no to accepting a Section 8 voucher.

She wants landlords to be a little more open in helping people with housing vouchers.

“It feels like a problem that insurmountable. It feels like I’m never going to be able to get past this stigma of being on Section 8 or being low-income, even though I have relevant income,” Martinez said. “It’s not enough. It makes you feel like you’re not enough at times. That can be hard when you’re a mom because you want to show to your children that you can do everything.”

Although it’s been tough for her to already look for housing, she’s hopeful and nervous for the future.

“I feel like I have a lot more dignity than I used to have. That was one thing that was really hard of coming out with my dignity intact because asking for help was extremely hard,” Martinez said.

The YWCA says to continue helping women during this housing crisis, it’s also in need of help. Hauck says they’re in need of donations to help get women into hotel rooms and offer them transportation, food and other needs as they get out of domestic violence. They have a goal of raising $75,000 before the end of this month. To help or get more information, visit YWCA’s website here.

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