The Homeless Crisis in Downtown Spokane

Posted by Phil Altmeyer, Executive Director Jan 14, 2019 1:01:59 PM

As I reflect back on 2018, my overwhelming reaction is one of gratitude: gratitude for God’s faithfulness, your partnership, the lost who have come to know Jesus, the families that have been restored, and the men and women who have secured jobs and are now God-dependent, contributing members of society. It was a great year.


I confess, however, that the past year has also brought concern over the changing atmosphere in downtown Spokane, the increased number of people living on the street and the prevalent mentality that the solution is to open more shelters, build more low-cost housing, create more feeding programs, deliver more blankets.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Those actions are not bad in and of themselves, but ultimately, without case management and accountability, they will cause more harm than good.

If you do a very quick scan of websites related to addiction,* you will find a wealth of information about “enabling” – a particular kind of “help” that isn’t really helpful at all but actually makes a situation worse.

“Enabling is removing the natural consequences to the addict of his or her behavior.” (

“By stepping in to ‘solve’ the addict’s problems, the enabler takes away any motivation for the addict to take responsibility for his or her own actions. Without that motivation, there is little reason for the addict to change. Enablers help addicts dig themselves deeper into trouble.” (

“To truly help, it’s important to confront them, in a respectful and loving way, about their behavior.” (

While enabling is commonly recognized as destructive on an individual scale, when multiplied out to a whole community of people, this truth is lost, and as a result, the problem worsens.

Your partnership with the Union Gospel Mission is about boldly proclaiming the truth that there is more to life than survival and that each person is created in the image of God to have meaning and purpose. It’s also about heart change and personal responsibility. Referring back to my first paragraph, your partnership is about providing a pathway out of homelessness. It’s about changing lives.

*We do not intend to imply that all homeless people are addicts, only that it is a significant problem among the homeless population and one that must be addressed.

To hear more on this topic, mark your calendars for the Annual Gathering on April 11. More information available soon!

Topics: homelessness, Heart to Heart, homeless shelter, Phil Altmeyer

Click here to see all articles for the January 2019 issue.


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