By: Tori Brunetti
May 26, 2010
SPOKANE -- A program that has helped hundreds of people come out of poverty in Spokane now faces a bleak future with its funding slashed by the state.
In 2009 lawmakers in Olympia cut funding to Spokane Neighborhood Action Program's (SNAP) Individual Development Accounts (IDA). IDA helps low income people buy houses, start a small business or go back to school by doubling the money they save over the course of three years.
With state funding slashed SNAP has found a way to keep the program alive temporarily through the website savetogether.org.
SNAP officials say the goal of the IDA program and the website has helped keep the program afloat so it can go on helping people who want to help themselves.
One of the people who has benefited from the program is Wendi Dunlap. She could tell you about growing up on welfare, battling a drug addiction and having open heart surgery in her early 30s but that's not how Wendi defines her life.
"I am not a pity party train chick," she explained.
Wendi has a 14-year-old, a masters degree and is a case worker. On May 8 she also became a home owner thanks to the IDA program. For every dollar she raised, SNAP gave her two.
"I am just so excited. I get to send my first mortgage payment off on June 1st," she said.
After the state cut funding to the IDA program, SNAP looked for other sources of funding and the website.
"So if anyone wants to help someone who is trying to help themselves they can log onto savetogether-dot-org," Kerri Rodkey with SNAP said.
The website is six months old and Spokane is one of five communities chosen to participate. SNAP can post people trying to save for a house, education or small business and people can donate to each person.
"We have actually had three people including Wendi that have been able to raise full amount of their match," Rodkey said.
"This has been by far the most effective program we have ever seen for getting people out of poverty."
For Wendi Dunlap, just one of hundreds of people the IDA program has helped since its inception in 2001, her new home symbolizes a future not just for her but for daughter.
"I wanted to raise the bar for my kid. I want her to break the cycle and be different," she said.
If you want to help someone all you need to do is go to savetogether.org. You can donate as little as dollar to whoever you choose.
Meanwhile SNAP says if the state does not renew funding in 2011 they will only be able to offer the program on a limited basis.