November 7th, 2019

Priority Spokane Releases Encouraging Results of 3 Year Pilot Project

- Ryan Oelrich, Priority Spokane’s Executive Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: We Know How to Address & Prevent Family Homelessness in Spokane County

Priority Spokane has the results of its 3-year pilot project addressing student homelessness.

Spokane, WA:  Priority Spokane’s collaborative pilot project has housed and/or stabilized 80% of the participating K-8th homeless students in four elementary schools and one middle school. Over the three years, 95% of those families are still stable and housed. The project housed and/or stabilized a total of 272 out of 339 children in these high need schools who were homeless or facing homelessness.

“We know what works and we have the evidence to prove it,” said Priority Spokane’s Executive Director, Ryan Oelrich. “We can affordably prevent families from becoming homeless along with the resulting trauma and litany of other problems that come with homelessness. Now we need to expand the project to our other high need schools.”

The pilot project was truly a collaborative effort by Priority Spokane, Providence Health Services, Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD), Catholic Charities, the Innovia Foundation, and the 19 organizations making up Priority Spokane’s membership. SRHD evaluated the project over the three years, while Eastern Washington University conducted the original research on which the pilot project was based. Collaboration was a key component of the project’s success.

WHAT WAS DONE:  Priority Spokane contracted with Catholic Charities to place specially trained community health workers (CHW) directly in these high-need elementary and middle schools. School staff identified homeless or at-risk students and their families and then connected them to the CHWs in the schools. CHWs met with students and families on site, built trust, and worked one-on-one with families to connect them to area resources, develop skills and goals, and ultimately house/stabilize them.  CHWs each had access to $10,000 in flexible funding per year to help families when other resources were not available for rental applications and deposits, transportation, or other barriers to housing.

WHAT WAS LEARNED:  A lack of income was the leading cause of family homelessness followed by domestic violence and health-related problems. More than half of the families served were single parent households with 27% adults reporting a disability and 39% employment. School staff documented the reduction in stress within the students housed and improved outcomes. The lack of affordable, low-barrier housing is a major obstacle for families across Spokane County.

Because of the pilot’s success, the project was expanded to serve families with infants and children under five years of age in the SRHD’s Women Infant and Children (WIC) and Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) programs. Through a collaborative community assessment process, Priority Spokane has since identified addressing the harmful impacts of family trauma and violence (including domestic violence) as the next priority for Spokane County.

For more information including the complete results of the 3-year pilot click here.

Contact:  Ryan Oelrich, Executive Director, Priority Spokane , (509)499-0536,


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