A Tri-City mother was told she needed to leave her home after her husband was arrested for drug possession. She had four children.
They had nowhere to go.
“They told her she needed to be out of the house in a certain amount of time,” said Beckie Hildman, who works with homeless families and children at Benton-Franklin Community Action Connections.
The struggling mother has since found a job and an apartment, thanks to help from CAC.
After a community needs assessment last year, CAC decided to remodel its downstairs offices at 720 W. Court St. in Pasco as a day center for homeless families.
The Second Chance Center, which has room for 35 people, held a grand opening Wednesday and officially opens at 8 a.m. Oct. 17. Hildman serves as the center’s director.
It’s designed to help families with children who need a daytime shelter while they look for work, housing and other resources in the community.
The center has desktop computer labs, couches, a kitchen, a play area for children, showers, and washers and dryers. And though it was designed to help homeless low-income families, they welcome any clients to return, even after they’ve found a new home.
The project was about two years in the making. They found there was an immediate need to serve families with children, since most shelters only take them in at night, forcing them to stay in their cars or in other public spaces such as libraries during the day, said Judith Gidley, CAC’s executive director.
There’s no other center in the Northwest like this. It’s really a unique setting.
Beckie Hildman, director, CAC Second Chance Center in Pasco
Many families that may be homeless, or struggle with income or housing, are reluctant to mention their problems, Gidley said.
“You never know where the people come from,” Gidley said. “You never know who’s homeless.”
The center will help serve as a starting point to help families get a jump start they need in their lives. Gidley, Hildman and Aimee Bergeson, chair of the CAC board, worked with other staff to look at local models for similar centers in the area.
They found other centers across the U.S., but nothing local, Hildman said.
“There’s no other center in the Northwest like this,” she said. “It’s really a unique setting.”
If a client needs help finding job or housing resources, staff will pick up the phone and connect them. If another organization is doing something well, the CAC wants to partner with them.
The center will also pay to put families in a hotel at affordable rates for at least a week at a time. The families won’t pay anything if they currently have no income, Gidley said.
All participating parents or relatives work personally with a case manager, who checks in to make sure they’re setting goals, searching for jobs or housing. and keeping the center informed throughout the process.
They will also help families who may just be passing by the area who have living arrangements elsewhere in the country, though they can only offer bus tokens for the Tri-Cities, Hildman said.
CAC worked with about 39,000 families who live in Benton and Franklin counties last year, according to community assessments from 2015. The organization received about $5 million in 2015 — $4 million from federal funds and about $300,000 from the state.
Another CAC survey conducted among 589 low-income Tri-City residents in 2014 showed that about 40 percent were homeless because of unemployment, while 25 percent struggled because of low-paying jobs.
About 45 percent of them were from Pasco, while 37 percent came from Kennewick and about 9 percent from Richland. The remaining 9 percent came from surrounding rural areas in Benton and Franklin counties.
More information on the Second Chance Center and CAC can be found at bfcac.org.