Organizations offer a safety net for homeless on the Palouse

MOSCOW, ID - Homelessness on the Palouse isn't as visible as it is in larger metropolitan areas, but there are a couple of non-profit organizations that believe it's a prevalent issue, and are dedicated to combating it.

Palouse Reporter Rachel Dubrovin tells us what's being done to help homeless people in Latah County and why it's a larger problem than you might think.

Between the good schools, the low crime rates and beautiful scenery, Moscow has a lot to brag about. But the city's poverty statistics may shock you.

"29.1% of the population is living in poverty," said Sojourners Alliance Executive Director Steve Bonnar. "It is the highest in Idaho, and Latah County has the third highest rate of poverty in the state."

Bonnar said it's difficult to see signs of poverty in the streets because many homeless people in the region are couch surfing, but issues like medical bills, unemployment and low-wage jobs have made homelessness a prevalent problem in Latah County in recent years.

"It's the working poor, those that are making minimum wage, they don't have enough money for first and last month's rent deposit," said Bonnar.

Sojourners Alliance helps people in those situations get back on their feet by providing housing for a few months, or a couple of years. Bonnar said the service is in high demand.

"We receive ten to 15 calls a week of households that are seeking help," said Bonnar.

But small non-profits like Sojourners Alliance have limited resources.

"Idaho does not contribute one dollar towards homelessness... The amount of money that's available to help households that are in need are getting fewer and farther between," said Bonnar.

Recently, there was a positive development in the battle against homelessness in Latah County. Gritman Medical Center announced that it will partner with Family Promise of the Palouse to create a day center in Moscow.

"Frankly, it will simply be a place to be and a place to live during the course of the day," said Family Promise of the Palouse President Bruce Pitman .

Family Promise of the Palouse helps homeless families by providing a church to stay in at night. With the new day center, they will be able to provide services like career counseling as well, so families can get back on their feet.

"Move from their problem situation to a more permanent, sustainable lifestyle," said Pitman.

The new Family Promise Day Center will be in the Martin Wellness Center in Moscow, and the organization plans to have it running by the end of the summer.