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Redeemed T


Local Shelters Impacting Local Lives


by Blythe Thimsen Photos by Tim Martin Zoom Photo





here were two times when I actually had a grave dug for me and I was on my knees with a gun held to the back of my head,” says Steve Viers. “What really freaked me out is that I was so numb, I didn’t really care. I said ‘either shoot me in the head or let me go.’” Those words don’t seem to match the relaxed, happy and easy-natured


man who is speaking them. Steve Viers, today, has a sense of purpose, knows his worth and finds joy in life. What happened between back then and today is something beautiful; something called redemption. His life


was redeemed, and it is something that is happening across Spokane, thanks to some of the city’s shelters, like the Union Gospel Mission, Volunteers of America’s Crosswalk, and Anna Ogden Hall, all of which change lives at one’s darkest hour. Viers’ story starts years before he found himself kneeling at that grave. Growing up as a


pastor’s kid, he had a seemingly perfect home. Behind the scenes though, he suffered physical abuse at the hands of his uncles and grandfather, and his parent’s divorce devastated him. “That really sent me for a loop and I started drinking and drugging when I was 10,” he says. “The divorce hit me so bad, I went from smoking pot and drinking beer to trying heroine by the time I was 14. By the time I was 18, I’d been shot at multiple times, I’d been stabbed, beaten up with bats, and intentionally run over, twice. I wound up in prison by the time I was 18.” A marriage, children and his-own divorce soon followed, putting Viers in a downward spiral


where he lost everything and was living on a dirty mattress on the floor of a dilapidated garage. “My kids came over one day and saw me there and that just tore me apart to have my kids walk in and see me in that condition,” he says. In July 2006, Viers’ ex-wife brought him a pamphlet for the Union Gospel Mission, and told him she thought he should go there. “I waited for days and said ‘maybe, we’ll see.’ Finally I just decided ‘okay.’ I walked nine miles to get here and never left.” The Union Gospel Mission started in 1951 “to reach the poor of our community with the


love and power of the Gospel so they may become God-dependent, contributing members of society.” Over the last 60 years, the Mission has served over 6,487,297 meals and has provided over 1,602,524 nights of shelter. The ministries are offered free-of-charge to those in need and are almost entirely supported by local, individual donors. In addition to crisis shelters, there are long-term programs at Union Gospel Mission, for men, and at their sister shelter, Anna Ogden Hall, for women and children. According to the Mission, the men’s recovery program “encompasses counseling, addiction therapy, education, job training and Bible study, all within the context of a safe environment centered on grace, acceptance and accountability.” That grace is something that was unexpected for Viers, as well as for Eddie Collins, whose


story starts in a similar way. “I came from a family with no problems, and then divorce hit when I was seven,” says Collins.


“My best friend [his father] left the house and never looked back.” Collin’s “perfect little world” crumbled and the damage was obvious. Collins thought he could win his dad’s attention and approval through success in sports, so


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