Lewiston homeless shelter breaks ground

By | February 24, 2024

Feb. 24—Weighing 50 pounds, Brianne Trout was at risk of losing her children when she checked into recovery.

The former Lewiston-Clarkston Valley resident had completed a 30-day program, but she knew she had more work to overcome an addiction that started in her late teens with a prescription for narcotic painkillers.

That’s where Union Gospel Mission filled the void and supported her in the hard work that allows her to live today as a mother, employee, friend and daughter, Trout said.

She addressed a crowd of more than 150 people Friday at the groundbreaking of the Union Gospel Mission’s 92-bed homeless shelter at 501 Snake River Ave. in Lewiston. The mayors of Lewiston and Clarkston were both in attendance.

“(UGM) has changed my life and I am forever grateful to God for the work done within the walls of UGM,” she said. “To God be the glory.”

UGM backers referenced Bible verses when expressing their hopes for the organization’s new Lewiston site.

“In our mission statement, we declare that we are committed, committed (and) passionate about reaching the poor with the love and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Jeremy Stevens, director of the LC Valley for UGM.

“We are about bringing complete transformation to people,” Stevens said. “That’s spirit. That’s body. That’s power. That’s soul. That’s the whole person.”

UGM is a staff-supported, volunteer-run organization, he said.

“So just to see the support here today, what I’m looking forward to is future volunteers, future fundraising volunteers, future people who will give to this mission, who play a role, who put the blood, sweat and tears,” Stevens said. .

Stevens and his wife, Bonnie Stevens, were both born in Lewiston. They are moving to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley from Hayden Lake, Idaho.

He joined UGM in 2022 as interim director of the Crisis Shelter for Women and Children after working in a number of roles at United Parcel Service, including as a delivery driver. Both Stevenses have training in biblical counseling and are certified in the Genesis Process, the counseling program UGM uses. She worked at UGM for three years before becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom.

In Lewiston, he will be responsible for the UGM program on Snake River Avenue, where two new buildings are being constructed. They are expected to be implemented within a year to eighteen months, with Kenaston Corp. as a general contractor.

One is a two-story, 14,000-square-foot dormitory with 46 beds for men on the ground floor and 46 beds for women and children on the second floor. A separate 7,000-square-foot, single-story building will have a kitchen and dining room.

Discussions are ongoing about whether it makes the most sense to remodel a 6,700-square-foot building at the back of the lot or build something new.

The shelter will provide services to those who meet the criteria, such as being drug and alcohol free and making progress toward goals that allow them to be self-sufficient.

Services include meals, counseling, employment resources, childcare, spiritual support and referrals to UGM programs in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane.

As construction begins, UGM continues to raise money for the Lewiston shelter. The organization is about $1 million short of its $8.9 million goal. Of that amount, $8.2 million is for construction and $700,000 for the first year of operating costs. A previous estimate of construction costs was $6.8 million, but the construction bid was higher than expected.

The effort to reach this stage began decades ago, says Phil Altmeyer, executive director of UGM.

Rich Copeland, an entrepreneur with close ties to Clarkston, served on UGM’s board when he lived in the Spokane area, Altmeyer said.

Copeland, a former partner in Plywood Distributors, a wholesaler of building materials, and later CA Company, had raised his family in Clarkston before moving.

Copeland returned to Clarkston after retiring and became involved in the efforts of the ROC Rescue Mission, which ran a day center for the homeless in North Lewiston.

Copeland bought property in North Lewiston for a shelter that never got off the ground, but proceeds from the sale of the land went to UGM’s Lewiston project, Altmeyer said.

“He wanted to see a shelter in this valley because homeless people in this valley had nowhere to go,” Altmeyer said.

Copeland died two years ago. He was represented by his son, Rich Copeland Jr., at the groundbreaking.

The elder Copeland and many others in the community supported UGM during the “long journey” to get approval for the shelter, Altmeyer said.

Numerous people opposed it, including residents who live near where the shelter is being built.

“I want to say to many of you, ‘Thank you,’” Altmeyer said, “because if you hadn’t come forward, we wouldn’t be where we are today. To put a shovel in that earth will be incredibly be nice.”

You can contact Williams at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

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