Rising Strong


The Rising Strong program in Spokane, WA isn't scheduled to begin serving families until April 2017, but its housing model and community partnerships are already well in place. This new program is a collaboration between Catholic Charities Spokane and Empire Health Foundation and is modeled after the Exodus Program (part of SHIELDS for Families) in South Central Los Angeles and the OnTrack program in Medford, OR. SHIELDS For Families CEO, Dr. Kathryn Icenhower, has been mentoring the program in its formative stages. Rising Strong will provide a safe alternative for families at risk of separation due to neglect stemming from parental substance use. It will offer treatment services for parents, along with housing and wraparound support for the whole family.


Multi-unit dwelling, far away
Architecture drawing
Multi-unit dwelling, up close

Summary of Innovative Program

Special Populations

Focusing on families at risk of removal due to parental substance use disorders, Rising Strong will provide housing and substance use disorder treatment, along with a range of supportive services for the entire family. By keeping the family together while addressing addiction and its consequences, trauma is reduced for children and parents are much more likely to succeed in treatment.

Program design began in 2014, and has included multiple site visits to model programs and engaging outside subject matter expert organizations, such as SHIELDS for Families and Children and Family Futures. This phase of the project was principally funded by Empire Health Foundation, with a significant contribution from Providence Health Care Community Benefits.

Program Replication Tips

A key feature of Rising Strong is its comprehensive housing plan that will create affordable housing for its clients and the broader community. Situated on 15 acres of land that was formerly home to a convent, and has since been acquired by Catholic Charities, the program will initially pilot its services for 20 families (including 40-60 children) in the former convent's dormitory-style housing beginning in April 2017. The convent is a well-maintained, 86-unit building with a flexible floorplan and many areas for meals, treatment, and recreation. The location is only three miles from downtown (near an express bus line) and adjacent to the community college and other important services. However, recognizing that dormitory-style housing is not ideal for strengthening families and promoting independence, by the summer of 2018, families will be transitioned to 75 adjacent family apartments. Through tax-credit financing, 350+ affordable housing units are being developed to house families in the program, as well as seniors and those with special needs. This will allow families the opportunity to transition to long-term, affordable housing with housing vouchers following treatment.

Replication tips:

  • Rather than starting from scratch, the program’s approach has been to identify bright spots with proven success. This has led to a strong collaboration with Shield for Families in Los Angeles.
  • Its founding partners bring passion, but also resources and experience to the project. Catholic Charities Spokane currently operates more than 1,000 units of housing with supportive services, while Empire Health Foundation formed a subsidiary (Family Impact Network) to manage parent-child visitations and other services for Children's Administration.
  • A wide and growing set of partners have been engaged as co-designers, including Children's Administration, Family Court, Office of Public Defender, District Attorney, Parent-Child Assistance Program, Medicaid managed care organizations and others. The group is unified in its desire to expand the options for safely changing outcomes for families.

Policy & Financing Strategies


Rising Strong’s approach to program design is governed by principles which together will uniquely position it in the community:

  • Allowing the family (as defined by the mother) to stay together or reunify to the extent permitted by safety, including partners and all children regardless of age.
  • It will not automatically exclude families on the basis of a single relapse. As David Sheff puts it, "addiction is the only disease whose patients are refused treatment for showing their symptoms."
  • For families to recover and flourish they need more than just treatment - they need affordable housing, education, employment, parenting skills development and other resources.


The program has already achieved significant milestones on the path to sustainability:

  • The property was acquired under favorable purchase terms, thanks to the commitment of the Sisters of the Holy Names to our project.
  • EHF made a program-related investment in the project in partnership with Catholic Charities.
  • The tax-credit proposal for Rising Strong housing was recently ranked number one in the state by the Housing Finance Commission, which manages the program.

For long-term sustainability, there are a number of significant funding opportunities being explored, including:

  • Billable services through Medicaid
  • Medicaid waiver
  • SAMSHA and other federal funding sources
  • Pay for Success (Social Impact Bonds)
  • Private philanthropy

Impact / Results

The program is still in the planning stage, so impact data is not yet available. However, Rising Strong plans to build on proven, evidence-based models to offer a safe, more effective alternative to separation for these families.

It will be cost effective in the short term, and provide exponentially greater benefits over the long term. Most importantly, it will strengthen its community by addressing issues of addiction, homelessness, and crime, now and for generations of families.

Agency Contact Information

Agency Name:Empire Health Foundation
City, StateSpokane, WA
General Phone Number:(509) 315-1323
Website URL:http://empirehealthfoundation.org/home/2016/5/20/rising-strong-with-community-partners