Promise Ridge provides a sense of normalcy for women and children struggling to find housing - East Idaho News

Promise Ridge provides a sense of normalcy for women and children struggling to find housing

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IDAHO FALLS – Walking into the house, the first thing you notice is the silence. Then the cleanliness.

You may not expect a homeless shelter to be so quiet.

You also may not expect it to have perfectly vacuumed carpets, a fresh fruit bowl on the counter, and even packaged chocolate Easter bunnies for children sitting on a table by the front door.

And the reason for the silence? All of the residents, or guests, as the shelter prefers to call them, are at work.

Kristina Batalden, board member for Promise Ridge, a local homeless shelter for women and children, says normalcy is the goal.

living room
The living room area at Promise Ridge. | Kaitlyn Hart,

“The house is empty because they’re working, and their kids are at daycare or school,” says Batalden. “A great number of our guests, they work. They have jobs, they have cars, but they just can’t find a place to live because it’s so expensive. We let them stay here 60 to 90 days, but it’s hard when you have all of your money saved up, and you still can’t find a place to live.”

Since the opening of Promise Ridge in 2018, the shelter has been providing women and children experiencing homelessness with a clean and calm home to bring a sense of normalcy to guests around the clock.

“When your house is clean, and your space is clean, it’s a calmer palace to be,” says Batalden. “And when your life is chaotic anyway, about being homeless or struggling for different needs to be met, isn’t it nice to have a soft place to land that is clean and calm?”

The legacy of Promise Ridge’s founder

The shelter came about due to the efforts of founder Peggy Sharp.

“Peggy Sharpe, it was her brainchild. She brought us both on as members of the board, and Angie and I have been doing this since the very beginning,” says Batalden.

Angie Lee, a fellow Promise Ridge board member, also speaks highly of Sharp, describing her as a mentor and depicting her enthusiasm to help others as a passion to give every human being equal amounts of respect, no matter their situation.

“We had known her for a long time, she was a teacher … and she was my mentor,” Lee said. “Peggy did a lot of the work, and she worked with the employees. As board members, we did what we could, but really until last year, it didn’t feel like we were doing a whole lot. Peggy was retired and could handle it. But she passed away unexpectedly, and that put us all into a ‘What do we do now?’”

The home itself, at 288 North Ridge Ave, comes with its own interesting history. In 1903, the home was built by Frank and Minnie Hitt. Minnie was the first female banker in the region, which eventually led to the city electing to name Hitt Road after her.

RELATED | A fixture in Idaho Falls’ history

After her death, she left the home to the Presbyterian Church so it could continue to be used as a home for people who needed it. That’s where Sharp came in.

In the early days of the shelter, Sharp worked with the church, which allowed her to rent the home to get Promise Ridge up and running.

Sharp was also a regular volunteer and advocate of local thrift store and charity organization, St. Vincent de Paul.

“Peggy did a lot of work with St. Vincent de Paul. She saw that our community needed a niche that wasn’t being filled. There were other shelters, but they weren’t quite serving in a family atmosphere,” Lee said. “She did all of the leg work, she visited other shelters around the state, she did all of the research, she really put a lot of time and effort into it. It was her passion.”

Batalden and Lee looked up to Sharp a lot. They are both teachers, and so was she. They both have a passion for helping their community succeed, and so did she.

Batalden and Lee
Kristina Batalden, left, and Angie Lee, members of the Promise Ridge board. | Kaitlyn Hart,

Sharp’s unexpected death in 2022 led to the shelter feeling a sense of hopelessness and loss, with some board members not knowing where to start or how to continue her legacy.

RELATED | Obituary – Marguerite Ann (Peggy) Sharp

“She was the keeper of the knowledge,” said Batalden.

Although the shelter works with multiple local religious organizations, Sharp was adamant that it not be committed to any singular religion, and that everybody be welcome regardless of their religious beliefs.

“She wanted it to be open for everybody. When you’re homeless, the fact is that you’re homeless. There should be absolutely no reason you’re not helped,” Batalden said. “To say, ‘Now we expect you to go to church, or are you a church member?’ It was not Peggy’s way. Peggy loved everybody.”

After her passing, the board reinvented the shelter, both in memory of Sharp and to focus more energy on quality care for guests over the quantity of residents.

“Before, we wanted to help as many people as we could, and we still do, but what that looked like then was, ‘Yeah, I think we can fit another family in!’ And we would pair them up in bedrooms and create little spaces, or we would partition off a wall and make a space,” says Lee. “We were trying to handle eight to 10 families instead of just five, because we have five bedrooms. It was hard on the house. When you put more people in a space like this, that are sharing a living space, you’re going have more chaos and more stuff.”

To complete the transformation, the shelter shut down and underwent renovations and a reconstruction of priorities in November 2022. The shelter officially opened back up in December 2022.

“We decided that we were going to respect the dignity of every human being, and give them each their room and their own space, so they wouldn’t have to share a room with another family,” Lee said. “And we would commit to serving fewer people at a time, but doing it more purposefully and better.”

As Promise Ridge celebrates its five-year anniversary, the board members have been taking a moment to remember what this place means to them, and all who have been helped by it.

“I just feel like they deserve to be a guest in a home, just like anyone else,” says Lee.

Looking to the future, Lee hopes to one day offer life skills courses for guests of Promise Ridge, to give them a leg up in a world that can often be cold toward people who are struggling with homelessness, addiction, domestic violence and many other life crises.

“One of my dreams is to set up a workshop format, where we would get volunteers to come in and maybe do a cooking class, or a budgeting class,” says Lee. “Just different little things that other people have knowledge about and could share.”

As guests leave the shelter, about to embark on a new journey in a long sought-after home, the shelter refuses to let them leave empty-handed.

“It’s been kind of our ‘shtick’ since we started, that when a guest leaves, we give them a laundry basket full of things. And every year we throw a birthday party for the shelter,” said Batalden. “People bring things like a plunger or a shower curtain — things you don’t think of that you need when you move into an apartment.”

Recently, Blue Cross of Idaho volunteered to put together the baskets to provide guests who are newly-housed with items to get them started.

Shelter donations and contact information

As of this month, Promise Ridge is at 100% capacity and is looking for donations, volunteer work and community support.

If you’d like to contribute money, you can do so via Venmo: @Promise_Ridge.

If you’d like to donate items, the shelter is looking specifically for consumables, including cleaning products, sheets and blankets, feminine hygiene products, etc.

The address to the shelter is 288 North Ridge Ave. Be sure to keep up with it on social media to find out about volunteer opportunities and fundraisers, by following the shelter on Facebook here.

You can also visit its website here.

Our attorneys tell us we need to put this disclaimer in stories involving fundraisers: does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries.