homeless outreach
The SNAP Homeless Outreach team (from left to right) Janet Price, Adriana Nicholson-Ortiz, Bob Peeler and Tonya Hill.

Cara Weipert understands that potential is not defined by city limits.

As a business development counselor with SNAP Financial Access, Cara makes it a point to visit outlying areas in Spokane County each month, delivering news about the agency’s micro-enterprise program. Her travels take her to places like Rockford, Fairfield, Spangle, Deer Park, Airway Heights and Medical Lake.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that SNAP has a micro-enterprise program, but word is getting out,” said Cara.

Cara is joined by Tammy Byrnes, an administrative assistant, on journeys that have generated business success stories like Farmhouse Pizza in Rockford and Bees to Bubbles, a specialty soap company based out of Spangle.

The entrepreneurial caravan is just one example of SNAP’s efforts to ensure that a broad range of residents know about the agency’s mission. While the nonprofit operates permanent sites at the East Central Community Center, the Northeast Community Center, the Mission Support Center on Fort Wright Drive and in two locations downtown – plus a seasonal office at Spokane Valley Partners  — the emphasis on reaching rural resident remains an important priority.

“Most of our offices are located in the city of Spokane, but our programs and services are, by no means, confined there,” said SNAP CEO Julie Honekamp. “We are the community action agency for all of Spokane County and remain committed to supporting all of our neighbors here.”

In the Homeless Services department, Adrianna Nicholson-Ortiz visits many of the same areas as Cara and Tammy with a team that includes Tonya Hill, Janet Price and Bob Peeler.

The homeless crew can be found in local community centers and other locations each month, determining eligibility for housing under the Homeless Families Coordinated Assessment. Bob will drop by the Community Court downtown on a regular basis as well as homeless campsites at risk of violating code enforcement guidelines and being dispersed.

 Adrianna said the efforts are about promoting “basically anything that supports employment or housing stability.”

 Supportive service dollars are available for costs associated with bus vouchers, gas and other expenditures. Referrals are made to the county’s Rapid Rehousing program and sites like the St. Margaret’s Women’s and Children’s Shelter and Union Gospel Mission.

Pete Karlsten and Marianne DeMarco represent SNAP’s outreach collaboration in energy assistance, conducting interviews in rural areas with those who have applied for help. The duo verifies information like income, address and number of inhabitants in a home.

“We’re seeing what we call ‘the new poor,’ people who are not used to this system at all,” Pete said. “I tell them that I understand what their situation is and our services are here for them. I tell them there are better times ahead.”

~Photo and post by Craig Howard, SNAP Community Relations/Development Specialist