Because everyone has a story, and it deserves to be heard…
Who is Amanda? It’s a question she has asked herself plenty of times. Growing up she didn’t have the best childhood, and in the course of her 29 years has seen the saddest parts of life including various abuses and drugs. Despite this, she has a goal to make people smile because everybody deserves to know that somebody out there cares.
Amanda was born and raised in Tacoma, and despite her negative upbringing the real downturn for her began in 2018. She had finished three quarters of her first year of college as a criminal justice and forensics major, but had to withdraw for health reasons and family problems in 2016. In June 2018 she lost her two boys to CPS, followed two weeks later by losing her housing. A week and a half after, on June 29, 2018, Amanda’s dad passed away. Amanda married just two weeks later hoping this man in her life would be a rescue, only to have him introduce her to drugs and more abuse. They separated after his abuse put her in the hospital on Christmas Eve 2018.
After being discharged from the hospital Amanda was able to find shelter with some family and friends, but ultimately she had no place of her own. She eventually ended up in a shelter in Tacoma when one evening while eating dinner a guy came in, said he had an RV and was leaving town and would take whoever wanted to go. Amanda was one of the first out the door.
They travelled across the state into Idaho, and eventually back towards Spokane. Amanda ultimately ended up in a homeless camp in Mead, WA where she met Julie Garcia and the team from Jewels Helping Hands. Amanda came to the warming center on it’s opening night.
Since her time in the warming center it is evident that Amanda has not lost her hopes and dreams. Today she is 22 days sober, and is working with a company on manufactured homes as well as getting her pilot car certification. She is also working towards a plan for housing as well as completing the classes to be able to receive her kids back.
Amanda has a passion for construction, auto mechanics, criminal justice, and has a dream to own her own business when she is back on her feet.
Amanda is also passionate for the homeless. Through Jewels she has met a lot of great and genuine people, and says, “everything [Jewels] is doing is one thing that I have wanted to do. I’ve wanted to help the homeless community, and to give back. People see homeless as bad, and I understand there are homeless people who are bad and do bad things, but same with people that have jobs. It’s not just a certain group. So what they are doing is amazing; everything they are doing is what I want to do. So it warms my heart to know that people do care.”
Finally, she has a deep appreciation and gratitude for our men and women in the military, as well as our police, fire, EMS, and medical community.
Amanda would like to say thank you to all the staff and volunteers at Jewels Helping Hands and to City Church Spokane! However, this is not the end of Amanda’s story. Find the continuation at the bottom of this page!
“John” has asked us not to use his real name or share his picture, but is allowing us to freely share his story.
John was born and raised in Spokane. His parents both abused drugs and alcohol as well as each other. Home was not a joyful place for John, and so he spent most of his time alone in the woods. School was also a struggle. Because he grew up poor, he was on the free and reduced lunch program through his school. Kids being what they are, they often bullied and teased John for his shortcomings.
At the age of 12 John’s parents divorced, and he moved with his dad to Orange County, CA. John found a new community of friends in California; ones that didn’t know his past and he was able to start over. Unfortunately, John’s dad remained broken, and introduced him to an array of drugs including alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. It was not unusual for his dad to bring friends home from the bar, and for all of them (including John) to snort lines together.
The financial status of his dad didn’t change, and John continued to go hungry at school. To remedy this John began selling marijuana to his classmates so he could get lunch money. In the end John got caught and expelled from school. From there John’s addiction to drugs, as well as the physical altercations, began to spin out of control and John found himself hooked on heroin.
When John was 20 he got word that his mom was sick. He returned to Spokane, and was with her when she passed away while they were watching Deadliest Catch together. John struggled to find sobriety and steady work. In 2013, he attempted suicide by mainlining heroin into his neck. While he survived he ended up falling ill to a severe brain infection. He spent over five months in the hospital under 24 hour suicide watch learning to use his motor functions again.
Most recently John had a lead position at a window company, and also found sobriety. Unfortunately the company issued mass layoffs when COVID hit, and John fell back into old destructive habits again.
He was able to find housing with an old friend. Street life being what it can be sometimes, John went out one day for coffee, only to come back and find himself locked out, house empty, and all of his belongings gone. John spent the next two days wandering downtown in tears when he walked by one of the shower trailers with Jewels Helping Hands. A JHH staff made contact with him, and brought him back to the warming center.
John is wanting and working to come back off opiates, and will start his suboxone program next week. While at the warming center he has been able to apply for and begin to receive his unemployment. He is actively working towards permanent housing, and is looking for work.
Someday he would like to be married to a wonderful woman, but recognizes he’s still too rough around the edges at this point in his life and wants the woman he marries to receive him at his best.
Bobby was born and raised Butte County, California. He’s 31 and currently living on the streets of Spokane. His childhood was rough; abuse and mental health issues framed his upbringing until he couldn’t take it any more and he ran away to the unforgiving streets of Sacramento at the age of 16. Life wasn’t much better on the streets, which left Bobby desperate for relief from the constant chaos and uncertainty. He checked himself into a group home initially, but quickly decided to move on to be with his mom, who was living in Everett, Washington at the time. So he packed up his things and headed north to be with her.
Shortly after moving to Everett, greater opportunities led them to the Chelan/ Wenatchee area where he found work at a packing plant, and met the woman who would become the mother of his two precious children. At the age of 19 Bobby found himself a new father, and quickly rising in the ranks at work thanks to his hard work and attention to detail. He was promoted to heading up quality and quantity control, and was also working towards buying his first home in Leavenworth. Things were looking good for a kid who had been given less than most, and found himself with an opportunity to do more than just make ends meet. However, something else was growing too. The drugs started off as just a once in a while or at a party type thing with his girl and him, but as they so often do, the drugs began to demand more and more attention as the addiction worsened. They became weekend warriors, followed by everyday users. They were stuck, and it was ruining their lives.
The fighting got physical between the two of them, and Bobby ended up in prison, which he admitted was the right call; he was out of line. In addition to prison time there was also a no contact order placed on him that he wasn’t aware of. On getting out Bobby’s girlfriend found him and the relationship, with all its baggage, ensued until they were stopped by authorities and Bobby found himself in prison again, only this time it would be for 5 years. Depression got bad and then everything fell apart.
On the outside the kids’ mom wasn’t doing very well either, and ended up striking a deal with the state that backfired on her, and as a result she and Bobby lost custody to their kids. The kids were adopted and there was nothing Bobby could do from behind bars. Around the same time Bobby’s father passed away, and all the guilt of not being there for anyone that mattered to him due to his actions grew deeper, consuming him more times than not. Upon getting released in Spokane in 2017, Bobby was able to quickly gain employment and an apartment, but he couldn’t get free of the guilt, shame and depression that continued to haunt him. It was too much to bear and the addiction won over again. In an attempt to get away and start over Bobby moved back to Everett with his sister. However, upon finding out that his mother, who was still in Spokane, was sick and on the streets herself, he decided to come back to help her. He couldn’t see a way to help her from afar and she needed him more than a job would allow. So, he chose the streets to be with his mom over pursuing his own freedom.
The streets and the addictions are ruthless companions that always take more than they give, but sometimes they seem to be the only thing keeping the pain and the chill of death away. Bobby painfully explained how meth had ruined his life, and still to this day stalks in the shadows waiting for any opportunity to steal the next opportunity. Yet it is also the very thing that has enabled him to survive some brutally cold nights with enough energy to keep moving so he doesn’t freeze to death. A torturous rock and in impossible hard place. He wants out in the worst way, and he knows he needs help.
As we talked I saw a man who has a huge heart for others. Who deeply misses his babies and regrets many of the decisions he’s made in his life. At the same time, Bobby is not a man who has completely lost hope! He’s here at the shelter with his mom making sure she is alright and not alone. He’s been sober almost 4 weeks, and while he has already gotten off the suboxone and heroin, he knows he needs to get into a program to kick his last addiction: meth. Yet, he refuses to leave his mom behind. He refuses to leave another family member in their time of need, an he’s determined to help her get into her own housing where she can be safe and cared for, and until then his future is on hold.
For now getting clean is step one. He is focused on that and that alone. He knows that if he is going to accomplish his goal of getting his mom cared for, getting his own place, getting back into the workforce, and out of the DOC’s crosshairs that his addiction needs to be dealt with first. If he’s not clean, nothing will move forward. This is the plan, this is where Jewel’s Helping Hands really helps.
Bobby said, “if it wasn’t for Julie Garcia and her team, I would probably be dead right now. She’s like a second mom to me with how she loves me and helps me move forward.” At the shelter Bobby gets help with medical, housing and support getting back on his feet. And because he’s not fighting for his life every night he has been able to remain sober more and more. Gaining these little victories gives hope and sets vision in peoples hearts. For Bobby, he sees himself sober, giving back to the homeless community through Jewel’s and working with his hands again in construction. But for now he’s going to continue to help out his mom, and even give the shirt of his back to his fellow roommates like he did when one of them had their bag stolen.
Doug has spent most of his life on the streets ranging from L.A. to Spokane. As seems to be common with most of the guests we have talked to, his childhood was extremely rough. His parents married shortly after World War II, in which his father served. Unfortunately, both parents were alcoholics, dabbled in drugs, and adultery. Ultimately, Doug was raised by his dad as his mom got pregnant and ran off with another man. She would eventually end up working in a brothel in Las Vegas. One of Doug’s earliest childhood memories was when he was 5, and his mother drove him and his 7 year old brother up from L.A., where she was living, to their dad’s house in Santa Barbara. She left them at the front door on a Friday afternoon, and went back to L.A. Their dad was not home, and so they remained on the front porch until his return Sunday evening.
Doug traveled with his dad up and down the California coast most of his childhood; going wherever Dad could find work at the time. Doug seemed to find trouble for himself wherever they landed saying, “the first 19 years of my life my heart was the blackest of blacks; life was very dark. If there was a sin to commit I’ve committed it.” Doug’s dad took him to a Billy Graham Crusade when he was 9, and Doug responded to the alter call, but it would be another 10 years before he would surrender to Jesus.
When Doug was 18, he traveled with two friends up to Snohomish, Washington. One of his friends had created an invention that helped expedite the production of furniture, and was showing it at the Snohomish County Fair. While in Snohomish, they had a falling out one night over a card game, and at 2am Doug was kicked out of their motel. “All the money I had on me went to renting that room, so I was out on the street with nothing and no way to get back home to California.” Through a dark turn of events of his own doing, Doug committed a crime and landed him in prison for the next twenty years. He was just 19 years old.
Not long afterwards, Doug found himself on his knees in his prison cell crying out to God, and wanting to be released from his addictions and lifestyle. Doug does suffer from a degree of brain damage so some of the details of his life in prison were a bit scattered, and hard to follow. Upon his release he stayed at the Union Gospel Mission for a time, but because of his felony conviction was never able to find housing. He ended up falling into meth addiction again, and settled on life on the streets of Spokane (though he has been clean for the last five years). However, he has not lost his faith in Jesus. Doug is known on the streets as Preacher, as he wants everyone he comes into contact with to know the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Doug found a connection to Jewel’s Helping Hands through Kelly. Kelly and Doug knew each other from time on the streets. However, Kelly is one of many success stories through Jewels Helping Hands. Having found sobriety, housing, and employment herself, she remained in contact with Doug, and has been able to get him into warming centers during the winter. Unfortunately, he has lost fingers in the past to frostbite and is still at risk to this day from losing more.
Doug’s parting words from our interview were this: I hated my dad growing up, but looking back I can see that he did his best to raise me and I just wish I had the opportunity before he died to tell him thank you and let him know how much I appreciate him. “I’m confident I will see him again, and I look forward to telling him these things.”
Susannah is on what she describes as a journey of self discovery. To really understand this we need to go back, like many we have interviewed, to her childhood.
Susannah was adopted, and as can be common with adoptees, Susannah struggled to feel wanted. Her birth parents didn’t want her so why would anyone else? Though the family that became hers was stable and loving, she grew up as a chameleon. “I was everything to everyone because I didn’t want to be thrown aside again.” In a struggle to reconcile these emotions Susannah grew up with anxiety and depression, and a feeling of not being supported through this. “I grew up in Burbank, California. I’m from an upper middle class family. My parents were stable, but my mom didn’t believe in mental health issues or emotion.”
In our discussion, Susannah starts her journey of where she is today beginning in early 2018. She was a single mom, and a self-described “bad relationship picker, and I picked a bad one…a really bad one.” Susannah moved her then boyfriend in with her and her 10 year old son. Not long after, a person who was angry with her boyfriend called CPS. CPS did an investigation, and ultimately decided it would be best to remove her son from the home. In an effort to keep her son out of state custody Susannah had to give full disclosure to her mom of all that was going on…including her own drug abuse.
While she was working, her parents at the time were supplementing Susannah’s income as she was not receiving any child support. About this same time, Susannah’s father died, and upon hearing Susannah’s confession her mom cut her off financially. As a result, in February 2019, Susannah sent her son to live with his dad, and she ended up on the streets. Her son is doing well living with his dad in another state.
As she said, Susannah is on a journey of self discovery; she is currently not sure what her way off the streets is. For her overcoming homelessness is not just about getting housing. You still have to address the issues that made you homeless in the first place, and that is what she is doing.
Her final words to us, in tears were, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Have compassion for people because they are human beings. Acknowledging someone on the street by just saying, ‘hi,’ you don’t know how much that can make someone’s day.”
Jack and Linda’s Story
Jack and Linda came together late in life coming from very different pasts. Jack is a native of Spokane, and previously lived in the North Central neighborhood where he lived with his wife and kids and working full time at a metal fabrication shop in the Valley. His oldest son, who was twenty at the time, also worked in metal fabrication. One day after work Jack’s nephew, who was heavily involved in drug abuse, was at the house and there was an altercation between his son and nephew. Jack’s nephew drew a knife and stabbed his son in the heart. He died at the scene. Not long after the death of his son Jack lost his wife to pancreatic cancer. “I just quit caring after all that.” Jack ended up leaving Spokane, and moved to Everett to work for his brother doing camera repair. However, Spokane was home for Jack, and so he purchased a camper and moved back. That’s when he met and went to work for Norm, Linda’s husband, in their construction business.
Norm and Linda owned a construction and landscape development business together. However, they were also heavily involved in faith based outreach to their community. Their big endeavor began when the purchased a home, and turned it into a food bank. As the popularity of it grew it expanded into a clothing bank as well. Outgrowing their space they found a property downtown where they were able to host a restaurant as well as apartments. Their biggest outreach population ended up being runaway teens. Housing the teens, they worked with state officials to reunite them with their families. This ministry also grew beyond what Jack and Linda could manage, and Volunteers of America came in and the ministry we know today as Crosswalk was born. Oh, and the building they were in on Madison and Second? Today is known as The City Gate.
Norm ended up getting sick both from a combination of Agent Orange infection and cancer. He would ultimately succumb to his illnesses in 2016, at which time Jack “made a deathbed promise” to Norm in that he would take care of Linda for the rest of her days. Linda also has cancer.
As Norm got sicker they pieced their business off to their kids. Some parts of the business (roofing and painting) are still going, but the rest of failed to thrive.
As our conversation drew to its conclusion it wasn’t clear as to why Jack and Linda remain homeless; specifically what happened after Norm’s death that Linda lost everything. Though they have made multiple attempts to find housing they’ve been unable to find anything longstanding. Though they remain hopeful that some day they will.
Paul was born and raised in Ohio. His biological dad went to prison when he was just two years old, leaving Paul and his brother to be raised by just his mom until the age of nine. Mom was remarried to a good man named Bob who ended up adopting both Paul and his brother after their biological dad’s parental rights were revoked.
When Paul was 18 he joined the local Cost Guard Auxiliary with his parents where he served until graduating high school in 1990. After graduation he joined the United States Coast Guard. After completing boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey he was transferred to Alameda, California where was stationed for six years. He worked on the Coast Guard Cutter Sherman for three years, followed by his last three years where he was in charge of installing global positioning antennas along the Pacific Coast.
After his discharge from the Coast Guard, Paul moved back home to Ohio where he worked as a private investigator for workman’s comp claims for two years. “I got out of that because it was too boring…sitting in a van all the time watching people, and it just felt creepy to me.” Upon leaving the PI business Paul got into iron working, ultimately owning his own company.
One night, while serving at his friends bar in Ohio, Paul ended up bouncing two guys out. Unbeknownst to him they waited for Paul in the parking lot where they jumped him as he was leaving for home. Once he came to he found his wallet and keys had been taken, and ended up walking back to his apartment. After getting cleaned up he called his friend that owned the bar to look at the footage from the security cameras. “When I walked out the door the first guy hit me in the face with a metal pipe, and then his buddy came from behind the door and punched me in the face a few times with brass knuckles, and knocked out a bunch of my teeth.” The culprits were ultimately arrested, but for Paul it was time for a new beginning. Having seen his three boys through graduation Paul closed his iron shop, purchased an RV, and moved to Washington. “I stayed in Washington for a bit while I was installing the antennas for the Coast Guard, and I loved it; it was beautiful.” Paul traveled between Tacoma, and then to Olympia before landing in Spokane.
Paul found a church home at Mosaic downtown as well as employment at their bike shop. After six months, Paul started his own bike repair business.
In September of 2020 Paul and a friend were hiking in the area of Fish Head Trail. “He broke off to head home, and I continued on the path to head back to Spokane.” Not long after Paul was jumped again; this time by five individuals who would put him in the hospital for the next two months. “I have no idea who they were and they never got caught, but I heard on the news they did the same thing to five other people in that area.”
After multiple reconstructive surgeries Paul was discharged. He and his girlfriend, Amber, had housing with a friend and Paul was able to continue healing. However, another infection began to set in, and Paul found himself back in the hospital. During Paul’s stay in the hospital the friend they were staying with moved other people into the house. “They were heroin addicts, and I knew we couldn’t stay there after that.” Paul also knew he couldn’t return to the streets in his condition so he contacted Jewels Helping Hands to see if they could provide any assistance during his recovery. Jewels was able to take both Paul and Amber in upon Paul’s discharge from the hospital where they are actively looking for permanent housing with the help of the VA.
During our time Paul became very emotional as he talked about how proud he was of his boys. One joined the United States Marine Corps after high school, and went on to serve with the United States Secret Service. One is living on the East Coast and runs a body repair shop, and the other manages a Toyota dealership in Ohio.
Julie and her team met Amanda at a homeless camp in Mead on one of their many outreaches. They told her a warming center would be opening in Spokane, and then gave her the address and a bus pass when she said she was interested in coming. She showed up on the opening night, “and ever since I walked through that door my life’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, but all up hill.” Amanda quickly landed a job working on modular homes, but the biggest change came one night when the warming center was short staffed. “I committed to staying up and helping.” Amanda’s work ethic both inside and outside the warming center, her heart for her bunk mates, and her drive to remain sober quickly caught the attention of the Jewels staff.
“I remember,” Pastor Jason recalled, “sitting with Amanda in early January and asking what her plans were for after the warming center closed at the end of February.” Amanda replied, “I’m going to save up as much money as I can, and I’m going to buy a truck and then I will live in it if I have to. I’m on the list for housing, but there are people in here who have been on the housing list for two years. I can’t go back up to Mead…I love the people there, but I just can’t go back to that life.”
“She told me of how she had been volunteering at night in the warming center, and had begun to hear rumors that maybe she could get hired on to Jewels’ staff,” Jason said. “I told Amanda I had a strong feeling something would work out in her favor in regards to work and housing. What I didn’t tell her at the time was I was feeling the Spirit prompting me that Andrea and I would be that answer.”
Amanda did get hired on full time with Jewels Helping Hands, and because of her progress, drive, and sobriety she was able to move out of the warming center and into Julie’s home. She has also been gifted a car; a 1994 Geo Metro. As Julie said, “Its not a great car. It’s bad actually. The doors suck, it’s ugly and it has issues. To Amanda it is 4 wheels and hers. She loves it.”
As for housing? “I told Julie that Andrea and I had been praying, and were feeling led to have Amanda come live with us.” Jason said. Julie replied, “I think that’s a great idea, and I think she would do very well with you guys.” “So we made dinner plans with her, and at the end of dinner we asked her and told her we had already spoken to Julie about it previously and had her blessing. I think she cried for about 5 minutes before she told us yes.” She moved in with Jason and Andrea earlier this week while continuing full time with Jewels Helping Hands, most recently being trained on outreach.
“My whole life I’ve struggled. As you know I’ve grown up in an abusive household, and never had the best life,” Amanda said. To have a family now “means everything.”