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Salvation University 

by Cara Gardner

About 70 percent of American households donated to at least one of the more than one million charitable organizations in the United States in 1998. And everyone, no matter where they send their money, wants to know that it's being put to good use.

If you drive by the Salvation Army's Spokane headquarters at 222 E. Indiana this summer, you shouldn't have any trouble seeing where the organization is spending its donated dollars. Plans are already underway for the Salvation Army's "family campus," a consolidation of services stretching for two city blocks: a self-contained area where program recipients will have access to housing, classes, counseling, health care and even shopping.

"Joining our two [existing] facilities, which are the administration and community center, is the family resource center," says Carrie Green, director of development with Spokane's Salvation Army. "You can get food and food vouchers, and take cooking classes; there will be job searching on computers and day care."

So far, the Salvation Army has raised $8 million of the $11.5 million it needs to complete the campus -- an impressive amount, considering that difficult economic times traditionally hit charities hard. But the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management says the Salvation Army is one of the best-rated charities in terms of using its money well. Of every dollar donated to the Salvation Army, between 83 and 92 cents goes toward the purpose donors intended - a rate higher than that of most charities. This Army is no mere platoon: Its entire operating income in the United States is about $2.14 billion. Most of that money is poured directly into human services and community centers.

The Drucker Foundation's evaluation of the Salvation Army is especially helpful for the Spokane chapter, as it continues to gain support for one of the biggest social services projects this area has seen. The family campus will harbor two separate sections for housing. A transitional housing building will have 30 three-bedroom apartments for families hoping to stay for up to two years; temporary housing will offer 30 new rooms and sleep 110 individuals a night.

"We are bringing to the campus a District 81 program for homeless children," says Green, referring to the multitude of outreach programs that will be available. "The People's Clinic for people with no health care worked out a deal with EWU where students getting their master's in social work can do their practicum there. Dentistry will also be provided."

Green says the campus will continue to provide shelter for children with nowhere else to go.

"We have here in the community center Sally's House, an interim foster receiving center. We got five kids last week from a crack house. Child protection services dropped them off here and they can stay here for 30 days, or until we find foster care or a guardian," Green explains.

The Army's followers are called Salvationists for a reason: It's a Christian organization with clear positions on moral issues. Yet Green says they simply want to provide a space to heal, and sometimes that includes worship.

"The whole idea is we get you cleaned up and stabilized and then you start examining what led you to that -- and some people explore religion. But if you're not the least bit religious, it doesn't matter."

Green says that the Salvation Army is planning a community campaign kickoff in October to raise awareness of the changes.

"The accommodations will almost double our capacity," says Green. As far as the family resource center, that will double, too. It's just going to be so much more efficient. We'll be like the one-stop shop for the homeless."

Publication date: 05/01/03
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