Nestled on Perry Street just off lower Sprague Avenue, Emma’s home is recognized as a nourishing refuge for family and friends.
The 78-year-old known as “Miss Emma” and her husband arrived in Spokane from her native Louisiana in 1973 to be closer to family. He passed away in 2000 after battling Alzheimer’s and throat cancer.
“That was a tough transition,” Emma says of losing her husband.
On most days, it is not uncommon to find a gathering of Emma’s relatives over at the house, talking, laughing and collecting insight from the family matriarch. Emma has six kids, 13 grandkids and four great-grandkids, almost all of whom live in the area. Before retiring, she worked for years in child care and advocacy, winning awards and recognition for her service.
“She is our rock, she is our glue,” Emma’s daughter, Tomeka Smith, says. “We know we can always count on her. Her place is a safe house. We know that if anything ever happens, we can come here.”
When Emma’s home began to fall into disrepair, she turned to a reliable resource that had helped her in the past. SNAP, Spokane County’s community action agency since 1966, provided support several years ago with a refurbished chimney and a porch handrail that needed reinforcement. As a senior on a fixed budget, Emma first discovered SNAP when she reached out for help with her energy bill.
“I’d used energy assistance before,” she said. “But I didn’t know that SNAP did so much more.”
Emma’s home had been identified through the city of Spokane’s Targeted Invested Pilot (TIP) program geared to revitalizing properties in the East Sprague area. Accessing funds from the City of Spokane’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), SNAP was able to address several critical concerns at Emma’s home this year, including plumbing repairs in the downstairs bathroom and upstairs bathtub as well as repairing the tub drain. A new kitchen sink faucet with sprayer was also installed.
With health challenges such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart issues as well as previous surgeries on her neck and eyes, Emma was grateful to have the worry of home repairs lifted from her shoulders. She says the respectful and efficient SNAP crews made the process easy.
“They were very nice and friendly,” Emma said. “They just came in and fixed things.”
A leaking washing machine was also replaced along with a new dishwasher. The improvements through SNAP and CDBG have brought a new level of stability to the home, Emma said.
“I was getting pretty discouraged before,” she says.
Describing her mom as “very independent,” Tomeka says the lingering problems at the home had become “a big burden.”
“Had these repairs not been made, I think she would have just walked around and stressed about it,” Tomeka said.
Emma had a different take on the potential scenario.
“I would have just stayed with this house until it fell down,” she said.
The CDBG/SNAP partnership also brought new storm doors, new bedroom and stairwell doors and replacement vinyl inside Emma’s front door. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms were also installed to ensure that Emma’s “safe house” remained safe.
“I had dripping water and doors falling off the hinges before,” Emma said. “I really appreciate what SNAP has done. They just did a great job.”