Paula and her husband arrived in Spokane in 1986 from California. When they arrived, they started a flooring company, which they ran successfully for the next 15 years. They purchased a home on the South Hill and raised their five children. Life in Spokane was good.
That started to change when Paula’s husband passed away in 2011. They had closed down the business prior to this, when her husband was no longer physically able to carry out flooring work. Now widowed, Paula found herself with poor credit and broke, and she wasn’t old enough to receive her husband’s social security benefits. She was able to scrape together enough to maintain payments on their home for five more years, but as she herself was disabled after a car accident in her teenage years, she had a hard time finding a steady source of income.
“It was too much
sadness to handle”
In 2016, she was forced to give up hopes of keeping her home and went through foreclosure, finding herself homeless. She stayed in shelters for two months, but she didn’t feel safe and left to live on her own. “You learn to play that role [amongst other homeless peers], of appearing not too well off, but not too bad off either.” She panhandled and was able to stay fed, but after losing her husband and her home, and then having to live on the streets, “It was too much sadness to handle.” She contemplated suicide, since for the first time in her life, she felt utterly hopeless.
One day at House of Charity, Ian [former SNAP employee] conducted an assessment to determine Paula’s housing options. She visited the Riverwalk office often to follow-up on her situation. In October of 2017, after nine months of being homeless, she received word that there was a two bedroom unit available for her at Riverwalk, and she followed through with providing all necessary documentation required to secure the unit, making many trips back and forth despite her physical disability and transportation challenges. The process took a month, but Paula was finally able to enter her own private apartment and close the door on the harsh world she had experienced firsthand.
Riverwalk I and II are SNAP-owned housing complexes in northeast Spokane that set aside units for individuals who are certifiably homeless. Markay Feldhusen is the property manager from Coast Real Estate who oversees the 104 units, and she worked with Paula to get her housed at Riverwalk. “Paula is always positive and cheerful. She keeps an immaculate house, and nothing seems to affect her joy. She is always smiling.”
Now Paula is determined to spend the remainder of her life giving back to the community. “I thought I was a crushed soul,” Paula reflects, but she is grateful for all the strangers she met who supported her, giving her food, money, or even a prayer for her to sustain her hope. She now feels happy and blessed, and Riverwalk is a place of comfort to her. She has been volunteering her time to help maintain the grounds, landscaping and painting. Her advice to anyone who judges people experiencing homelessness is simple: “Live on the streets, and see all of the compassion. Lots of people helped me keep my head up and kept me strong.”