We were overwhelmed to welcome over 160 people for a public screening of “A Walk Through Poverty” at the Downtown Spokane Public Library on January 25th. “A Walk Through Poverty” is a 30-minute film exploring the plight and complexity of poverty, specifically here at home in the Inland Northwest.  The pairing of the art installation plus movie screening is designed to evoke curiosity and immerse viewers in the conversation, inviting us all to relate and see ourselves in the situations presented. Laura Papetti of KREM thanked the guests for choosing to be there to witness the film, acknowledging that they could be spending their time doing any number of other things.  She encouraged everyone to consider how poverty affects each of us and the community while viewing the film, and to help continue the momentum the film has created about addressing poverty and how we can all be part of the solution.

Throughout the film, viewers are given action points that can help them see themselves in the solution to poverty, such as “encourage hope,” “be a good neighbor,” and “challenge your assumptions.”  Many do not realize that nearly 1 in 6 in our area live below the poverty line, including our neighbors who make up the fabric of our society. Understanding this can help us not only gain a sense of compassion, but can also help lead to lasting change, helping these neighbors reach their potential which benefits our entire community.

This screening followed the Homeless Connect event that took place earlier that day.  This free event was a single-stop opportunity for those experiencing homelessness to get access to resources and support such as free haircuts, medical and dental screenings, housing assistance, and veterinarian services for animals.  SNAP Homeless Services staff members were at the event to meet with individuals trying to find access to housing.

The “Everybody Counts” campaign also kicked off the evening of the screening. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires cities to count homeless people in late January every year in order to receive federal grant funding for housing and other services. This year, the Spokane organizers decided to expand that count beyond the federal requirements to include a larger area and a broader definition of homeless. Over the course of a week, volunteers visited various locations throughout Spokane County to ascertain an accurate number of individuals who are experiencing homelessness and also to learn about their situations and to provide referrals to services they might be able to access.  A new mobile application was utilized, with the hope being that the counting process is quicker and more efficient than previous paper-based surveys, and processes can be examined to ensure that resources are being allocated appropriately to best benefit the homeless population.