Domestic violence visitation center Safe Havens is safe for now, thanks to donations

Kent city officials have decided to keep Safe Havens, the Kent-based domestic-violence visitation and exchange center, open for at least the rest of year and will continue to pursue a long-term operator for the facility.

Kent city officials have decided to keep Safe Havens, the Kent-based domestic-violence visitation and exchange center, open for at least the rest of year and will continue to pursue a long-term operator for the facility.

The community response of pledging nearly $54,000 over the last two weeks to help fill a funding gap of nearly $100,000 persuaded city officials to reopen the center May 12 after a one week closure.

Safe Havens helps keep adult and child victims of domestic violence safe while complying with court-ordered visitation or exchanges.

“The money that has been raised in this last week has been very impressive,” said Jeff Watling, city director of parks, recreation and community services, in a May 5 e-mail to city staff.

Watling briefed Mayor Suzette Cooke and Chief Administrative Officer John Hodgson on May 4 about Safe Havens.

“Given the positive momentum in funding, the increased visibility and awareness of the center through the media, and the progress made on finding a long-term operator to transfer the program, we all agreed that the city will continue operation of Safe Havens this year and allow the fundraising efforts to continue,” Watling said.

Tracee Parker, project supervisor for Safe Havens, rejoiced at the city’s decision and the community’s financial support.

“It sends a great message that the program matters,” Parker said in a phone interview May 6. “But there is still a lot of hard work to do. We need to try to get solid funding so we are not in this predicament again.”

More work remains to keep the facility operating the rest of this year and beyond, Watling said.

“Much has been done, but we still have a great deal of work to do,” he said. “In the near term, we need to secure the remaining funds to ensure operation through the rest of 2010.”

The Seattle-based Lucky Seven Foundation has pledged to match up to $17,000 in donations, Parker said. The foundation gives to nonprofit groups in the areas of health and welfare, education, arts, and the environment, according to its Web site.

Safe Havens opened in 2005 as one of four federally funded demonstration sites across the nation. But federal, state and King County budget reductions have left a $130,000 gap in the program’s 2010 budget. The city of Kent funds $100,000 of the annual operating budget of about $340,000.

In 2009, Safe Havens received $125,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice, $100,000 from the city of Kent, $63,000 from the state and $52,000 from King County.

For 2010, the state dropped all funding, the county cut $42,000 and the federal government reduced funding by $25,000. The city of Kent’s contribution remains at $100,000.

Parker definitely felt relief after the city’s decision to keep the center open.

“It’s been quite the roller-coaster ride,” she said. “On Friday (April 30), I felt so desperate. But then things quickly turned around. It’s been amazing.”

The city of Kent has established a fund to accept donations.

Checks can be made payable to City of Kent/Safe Havens and mailed to Safe Havens Visitation Center, 220 4th Ave S., Kent, WA 98032. Donations via credit card can be made online at Donations are tax deductible.

For more information about Safe Havens, go to

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