At its Dec. 11 breakfast, the Bellevue Downtown Association hosted a discussion on homelessness in the city with five panelists working with the homeless populations in the area.
A discussion on the data, causes and solutions to homelessness was held with Hopelink CEO Lauren Thomas, Bellevue Police Chief Steven Mylett, The Sophia Way executive director Angela Murray, Bellevue School District’s executive director of community development Judy Buckmaster, and Congregations for the Homeless (CFH) executive director David Bowling. The panel was moderated by Bellevue LifeSpring executive director Jennifer Fischer.
The discussion centered around the data the organizations have collected through their years of serving the community. Hopelink’s Lauren Thomas said the most significant factor leading to homelessness in King County was job loss or eviction. In a 2017 community needs assessment, the top reason, at 30 percent, respondents became homeless was job loss. Thomas also said 83 percent of respondents were living in King County when they became homeless.
Chief Mylett explained some of the myths and acts about homelessness. One of those myths was that the police only interact with a homeless person when they are about to enforce the law — Mylett said that is false and that officers actively engage the homeless population of Bellevue to help direct them toward services.
Other myths included the rate of crime among homeless populations. Mylett said the homeless population does not have a propensity to commit crimes, and that a vast majority of the people are law abiding citizens. The majority of arrests, he said, are of people who are housed.
Mylett also discussed panhandlers and said the department has had cases in the past where someone who was not actually homeless had come to Bellevue to panhandle. He said a better investment of citizens’ money would be donating to nonprofits that provide services to help the homeless population, like the organizations his fellow panelists represent.
Buckmaster talked about the school district’s role as a partner to the various human service organizations, and said the support and resources they provide help create a better learning experience for the students. If students don’t have a home to go back to, it maked education more difficult, she said. That’s why it is vital that the district work with agencies to help find solutions.
Some of the pathways to better service are only just a few years away. David Bowling talked about CFH not being able to keep their shelter open year round in 2018 and hoped that would be possible in 2019. Their goal is to have a temporary, year-round shelter before the permanent men’s homeless shelter development project is complete in 2022. Bowling said CFH is working on a site assessment for the building, and the orgnaization is planning to announce the location they have chosen before the end of 2018.
Angela Murray also talked about The Sophia Way’s upcoming development project for a new shelter for women and families. In partnership with Catholic Community Services, the development will officially break ground on May 1, 2019. The new shelter will run 24 hours, seven days a week, all year long. The first floor will be run by Catholic Community Services and the second floor will house The Sophia Way. That project is expected to be complete in 2020.
For more on the Bellevue Downtown Association, visit www.bellevuedowntown.com.