Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Respect is basic for House of Charity’s security coordinator

Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Dec. 6, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Dave Barrett is the security/safety coordinator at the House of Charity in downtown Spokane. (IR photo)

Since September 2000, the House of Charity, a ministry of Catholic Charities Spokane, has been located in modern new facilities at 32 West Pacific Avenue, centrally located in downtown Spokane.

The House of Charity cares for the poor and homeless in several ways.

The staff serves about 70,000 full hot lunches each year, plus a similar number of continental breakfasts. Two days a week, the House also hosts a medical clinic that is an outreach of Sacred Heart Medical Center. The oldest free clinic in the state of Washington and the only completely free medical clinic in Spokane, it is staffed by volunteer physicians and nurses, many of whom are retired from their own careers in health care. Last year, the House of Charity’s clinic gave free medical care to 1,758 people. The House also offers a year-’round sleeping program for men, with all 104 beds in use every night. In 2006, 264 people gave 17,353 volunteer hours at the House of Charity.

In the same year, the House of Charity gave, free of charge, case management to 1,139 needy people, counseling to 261 people and free clothing to 9,284 people – all at no cost to tax payers.

Last year, the House hired its first fulltime safety/security coordinator, a Baptist and ex-U.S. Marine named Dave Barrett. With a full head of white hair, a ready smile, and a cheerful greeting for both staff and visitors, Barrett brings to his position many years of experience beginning as a police officer and homicide detective for the City of Los Angeles. Subsequently, he was a manager for a security company with offices in both the U.S. and Canada, and owner/operator of his own international investigations and protective services company. He has been a plainclothes bank robbery suppression officer, a regional loss prevention manager for a retail company, and a paramedic/advanced emergency medical technician for an ambulance service. For two years he was assistant director of security at Silverwood, the largest water theme park in the Pacific Northwest, north of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

He has now been at the House about 18 months. He began by visiting “all the businesses in the neighborhood,” he said. Even during his interview, he could understand the situation in the area. “It was pretty bad out there, and the businesses were complaining a lot,” he said. I knew that I couldn’t come in here hard and strong, with my law enforcement background. I had to come in here and build relationships with the people in the street – treat them with respect. I had to build that relationship with local law enforcement.

“One advantage that I’ve had is that I have the gray hair and the fact that I am an ex-Marine, so I have the rapport with the ex-military guys out here. The fact that I’m not from Spokane (helps) because the clientele here tend to be against the local police. Well, I’m not retired locally so that actually was advantageous. There’s a lot of respect for the Los Angeles Police Department.”

He introduced himself to the owners of local businesses and told them he was here “to help clean up the streets.” In addition, he meets monthly with security heads of hotels and schools.

His first day on the job, Barrett asked the people on the street, “Who are the alpha dogs out here?” He wanted to know who the “main people” were in the streets so he could introduce himself to them. “I let them know who I am, and I let them know that I’m a retired policeman,” he said.

Success isn’t necessarily dependent on his status as a retired police officer. “Personality comes into play a lot,” he said. So does a sense of respect.

“You have to be able to joke with people without making fun of them. You have to be able to have compassion for people. You don’t come here to judge; if you come here to judge you’ll never make it. You have to show a presence, and you have to be self-confident, and you can’t show weakness. If you show weakness they’ll walk over you. But you treat people with respect.”

Working with a variety of populations is part of Barrett’s job description. “I’m dealing with a lot of different ethnic groups,” he says. “I’m dealing with the Crips gangs, the gang bangers. I worked south central Los Angeles for a long time, so I’m familiar with the Crips and all those gangs. I know what they look like, what they represent, how they wear their colors, how they talk. I deal with the Native Americans, and they’re all about respect, and the Earth, and they’re really tight.”

As a staff person for the House of Charity, of course, his job relates directly to what the agency is all about. “I listen to what (people) have to say, and I point them to the right person here who can help them. Anything having to do with clothing, blankets, mental health, housing. The House of Charity is the largest homeless shelter for Catholic Charities between Minnesota and Seattle,” he said. “It’s busy. This time of year we’ll deal with 200 or 300 people a day.”

He also will staff how to manage aggressive behavior in a non-threatening manner. “I’m going to teach this – helping people gain the knowledge necessary to recognize what’s in front of you,” he said.

To one and all who may be curious about the House of Charity, Barrett extends an invitation to visit. “Come and see it,” he said, “Come and see what it really is. Someone will show you around, give you a tour. This is an awesome place.”

(Learn more about the House of Charity at http://www.catholiccharitiesspokane.org.)


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