Spokane-based organization serves a wide area all the way up to Colville
By Lisa Tyson
Founded in 2018 by Julie Garcia, Jewels Helping Hands (JHH) leads street medical teams and distributes meals and other necessities to the homeless population in the greater Spokane area. Her dedicated team also provides regular meals to non-profits and shelters upon request. Garcia’s belief that love is an action shines through in her unconditional assistance and personal involvement on the streets. JHH connects individuals with resources and support across a wide area from Coeur d’Alene to Medical Lake and all the way up to Colville.
At the heart of Julie’s non-profit organization is the Mobile Shower unit, a unique solar-powered haven. Operating on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Providence Community Clinic from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. this unit helps 95 to 100 individuals daily, providing not just cleansing waters but also a fresh outfit, socks, underwear, and a nourishing lunch. For 23,000 individuals in 2023, this Mobile Shower unit became a vital lifeline, offering a glimmer of dignity in a culture where those living on the streets are easily forgotten.
Volunteers play a significant role in Jewels Helping Hands, making 400 sandwiches daily and conducting outreach to provide meals for those on the streets. In the past five months alone, they served approximately 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches prepared by churches, organizations, and community members. These unsung heroes prepare and distribute food under bridges, behind buildings, in the forest, at the river, on the streets and in encampments. They echo the same motivation and inspiration sparked by Julie’s personal story – a single mother with a drug addicted daughter who became the founder of Jewels Helping Hands, a critical lifeline of resources for many.
Hope Found, Lives Transformed
Years ago, Julie’s own daughter struggled with addiction. Julie, as a result, utilized food stamps and sought assistance from charities to support herself and her daughter. As she stood in lines, seeking help, she became aware of the systemic issue of homelessness, witnessing familiar faces among the homeless population coming back for charity again and again. Julie had the realization that there are individuals who were once homeless, yet managed to overcome their struggles and now actively help others in similar situations. Relying heavily on her faith in God, Julie decided that she wanted to be that person and created an organization aimed at ending homelessness by providing transitional housing and resources.
Over the past five years, Jewels Helping Hands has expanded into an incredible team of twelve employees. Julie and her team have developed an extensive and powerful network of relationships within the community bringing volunteers, organizations, and businesses together, to source and distribute resources. JHH relies heavily on community contributions and resources to fill gaps for those in transitional housing. In the harsh reality of homelessness, JHH’s main goal is to be the first step of the process to getting individuals off the streets, working with one individual at a time. With the help of this vast network of support, they go far beyond providing showers, sandwiches, housing and essentials, making an indelible footprint each year in the lives of tens of thousands.
Beacons of Hope: Making a Difference
During frigid winters, it’s a race against the freezing temperatures. Jewels Helping Hands recognizes the desperation of over 2,500 homeless individuals in Spokane with less than 1,000 beds available. The organization’s Director of Outreach, Kenny, and his team are the first point of contact between the organization and the homeless, guiding them from the streets to a sobering center, and ultimately to transitional housing. Stefanie is the dedicated volunteer coordinator responsible for collecting and organizing donations, ensuring that they are delivered to the appropriate places where they are needed. Cheryl serves as Director of Transitional Housing for JHH, guiding individuals through the journey from homelessness to stability. Overseeing JHH’s two transitional houses, which can accommodate a total of 18 individuals, Cheryl and her team provide more than just temporary housing. Upon arrival from the streets, individuals are given their own private room, and all essentials. This tireless team operates on a daily basis, meeting individual needs and connecting individuals with resources, including access to food, bedding, clothing, furniture, benefits, permanent housing, and assistance in acquiring necessary items for a fresh start.
Success stories highlight the organization’s commitment to overcoming homelessness. Jewels Helping Hands recently provided housing for a military veteran with PTSD who was unable to stay in a shelter due to his difficulty being around large groups. This veteran had been on the streets for several years and had sadly suffered from untreated diabetes and frostbite, resulting in the loss of two fingers and one leg. In December, they were able to secure a transitional home for him. The prospect of taking a bubble bath, something he had been unable to do for years, was his biggest goal and did indeed become his Christmas miracle.
Another Christmas miracle was a signed lease for a mother and her children just in time for Christmas, leveraging the “Rapid Rehousing Program” through the Department of Commerce. With a plan in place for rent payment, housing vouchers covered approximately 70%, and JHH stepped in to provide Peer support and cover the rest.
Of the twelve employees, five are designated as ‘Peers,’ individuals whose role is to teach self-sustenance skills and assist in providing support to those JHH has placed in transitional housing. These committed individuals each offer comprehensive support to between 40 to 50 individuals on a daily basis and play a crucial role in helping with executive functioning tasks and lifestyle skills. They assist with arranging resource access and planning counseling services and doctor appointments. They aid in finding permanent housing, teaching healthy personal and home cleanliness habits, scheduling addiction therapies and accompanying individuals on everyday tasks such as grocery shopping. This hand-holding approach often extends to providing guidance on registering for service programs and benefits, teaching budgeting skills, and helping to complete job applications- all the things necessary for facilitating a complete journey towards stability. JHH Peers stand as beacons, offering a lamp to the feet and a light to the path of those in their darkest of moments.
Celebrating Achievements: Overcoming the Impact of Homeless Encampments including Camp Hope
In June 2023, Camp Hope, Washington’s largest homeless encampment in Spokane closed its doors for good, after 18 months. During its existence, JHH advocated for the homeless and served the homeless community along with many volunteers who donated their time along with food and supplies. Some neighbors even brought fruit from their trees. Julie spent many winter mornings accounting for the inhabitants and ensuring they were still alive after freezing 20-degree nights. When Camp Hope closed, JHH helped 279 individuals receive transitional housing support. Despite this achievement, there were 426 unique individuals, who were badged (identified), yet left without understanding that they would soon qualify for services. These homeless continue to remain unaccounted for and JHH is actively looking for the 426. If you or someone you know was badged at Camp Hope and still needs transitional services, please contact Julie Garcia for assistance.
Additionally, JHH supplies essentials to Colville’s sanctioned homeless encampment, serving an average of 2,200 unique individuals weekly without any criteria for assistance. They also collaborate with Dr. Pepper, a brand who donated 50 pallets of beverages in 2023 alone. This partnership helps in making drinks accessible and resources are allocated to individuals, local non-profits and food pantries on a first-come, first-serve basis.
JHH also prioritizes sending people back to where they came from. One of the more notable programs provided by Jewels Helping Hands is the Jay Carlson “Forget Me Not” Fund, which helps individuals return home by removing barriers and providing bus tickets. JHH reaches out to family members of the homeless and sets up living situations in their hometowns. In 2023, JHH provided and distributed 158 bus tickets, including eight that helped a homeless Ecuadorian family as well as two parents and their children move back to their family’s home in New York just in time for Christmas.
At Jewels Helping hands website, visitors can watch documentaries which share the realities of working on the streets of Spokane. “The Least of These” is a one-hour film that tells the story of how City Church of Spokane partnered with JHH to be the hands and feet of Jesus. They served the homeless population by hosting a temporary warming shelter in their Annex building. Their story offers an example of how churches can get involved. If you are part of a local church that is willing to consider offering a warming shelter, please reach out to Julie. This is a serious need during the winter, and can save lives.
Direct outreach is expensive. Let’s rally behind Jewels Helping Hands’ non-profit as they provide assistance and hope to the homeless individuals in our local community. To get involved and support Jewels Helping Hands’ mission, donate via Paypal at Jewels Helping Hands @jewelshh or via Venmo: @jewelshelpinghands. Checks can be made payable to JHH 5128 North Jefferson St. Spokane, WA 99205. Find them on Facebook under “Jewels Helping Hands” or visit jewelshelpinghands.org. To volunteer, donate supplies, or for a
direct connection, you can reach Julie Garcia at 509-263-5502. Together, let’s make a space in our hearts for Julie and the work that her and her team do and commit to helping our most vulnerable.