I met the Reneaus in October while volunteering at a homeless shelter in Spokane called Open Doors Emergency Shelter, a family shelter run by Family Promise. I took to them because they were both easy to talk to and were very open about their experience. They understood that poverty and homelessness is often a phase of life for people, and thus there was no shame in where they were at in life. However, they were aware of the journey they were in and that it would be rough. It was very obvious though, they were headed in that direction together, which is part of why I think their story will be one of success.
By the time I started photographing the Reneaus, they had moved out of Open Doors Emergency Family Shelter and into one of their sister programs, Bridges. Bridges, formerly known as Interfaith Hospitality, works with a different church every week to house an average of 3 families in the evenings. They are able to sleep at the churches at night and return to Family Promise during the day.
For the most part, Jeffrey is a quiet guy. While playing with his sons, he tells me in a calm voice he used to be a violet person. As he reminds his little baby to be careful near the stairs, I asked him what that meant to be violent. He confides he used to be in gangs and sold drugs.
The Reneaus were able to spend a week at Bridges. While at Open Doors and Bridges, the Reneaus applied for various housing programs. They were homeless and living in a shelter for over three months before being accepted for an apartment co-signed by Catholic Charities.
The Reneaus finally confirm an apartment in December and move in just weeks before Christmas. With funds from Temporary Assistance For Needy Famlies (TANF) they are able to buy some supplies for the house. A regular donor to Family Promise donates a mattress and sheets for the Reneau's oldest son. A few weeks later, they are given a queen mattress for themselves.
All photographs copyright Margaret Albaugh