Bellevue Police, Windermere team up to save emergency housing program
By NAT LEVY
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
January 13, 2011 · Updated 12:16 PM
It's 3 a.m. and police are responding to a domestic violence situation. They need to get two parties away from each other, but there's nowhere to send the person in danger – no friends, no family.
Previously, officers would go to a Salvation Army program that provided immediate emergency housing, but on a call earlier this month, Bellevue police learned that the program was out of money.
"There was just really no other option," said Bellevue Det. Sarah Finkel, who worked on the case. "You can't just wait until the next morning."
In this temporary emergency, officers came together to find the victim temporary housing and then got to work on restoring the Temporary Lodging Food and Transportation Program, which officers could employ on their discretion.
Only a few days later, the local Windermere Property Management office responded by putting up $5,000 to sustain the program in Bellevue through its charitable arm, the Windermere Foundation.
"We just wanted to make sure that they were able to help the people that had that immediate short-term need so they could have a place to go," said Keri Dutton, managing broker for the Bellevue office.
Police Spokeswoman Carla Iafrate said the program is only used three to five times annually so the Police Department didn't even know it was gone until officers wanted to use it. It is employed as a final safety net after other options have failed, she said. The most common need for this program by far comes in domestic violence situations. The program allows for a victim with few options to escape a dangerous situation for a couple days.
"This is for someone in immediate need for lodging for one reason or another and they're in a tough spot," she said.
The program began through Salvation Army in the mid 1990s. Like many of the organization's programs, it was funded through general donations. But in the last five years, those donations have dropped precipitously.
This fall, all money for the program ran out. Salvation Army went to several municipalities to see if any funding was available, said Social Service Director for the organization's Eastside branch Sierra Wagner-Mygrant.
Without an idea of whether or not many cash-strapped cities could foot the bill for the program, Salvation Army was stuck in a financial purgatory.
"Not only did this voucher program lose funding, all financial assistance ran out," said Wagner-Mygrant. "We did have to let all the cites that might fund us know that all of our funding was gone, so we were turning clients away."
But within two weeks of the Bellevue Police Department learning the program was broke, things were up and running again.
Each time the program is used costs about $300, according to Salvation army. That would cover food, hotel, and travel expenses. Wagner-Mygrant said the $5,000 donation would cover approximately 60 nights in a hotel without food and gas. When donations were strong, Wagner-Mygrant said, the program was good for about twice its current ceiling given the donation.
Windermere will continue to keep an eye on this program with the potential of turning the donation into an annual expense, Dutton said. But the program still needs help and donations, Wagner-Mygrant said. She advised people to contact their local Salvation Army branches to get information on how to donate to this program and others.Contact Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer Nat Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-453-4290.