Safe Havens to close for at least a week while city of Kent looks at donations for domestic violence visitation center

Safe Havens, the Kent-based domestic violence visitation and exchange center, will close for at least one week as Kent city officials decide whether enough private donations have come in to keep the facility going for the rest of the year.

Shown is Safe Havens' visitation room

Shown is Safe Havens' visitation room

Safe Havens, the Kent-based domestic violence visitation and exchange center, will close for at least one week as Kent city officials decide whether enough private donations have come in to keep the facility going for the rest of the year.

City officials will close Safe Havens from at least May 5-12 because of a shortfall of $100,000 in operating expenses.

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

“We are still waiting for donations to come in,” said Katherin Johnson, the city’s housing and human services manager, in a phone interview May 4. “We have $14,000 in the bank now. We are waiting to see where we are as pledges and donations roll in.”

Tracee Parker, project supervisor for Safe Havens, said May 4 that about $54,000 had been raised in pledges since city officials announced last month that the facility might have to close if it could not find an additional $100,000 in funding.

The city cannot count the pledges toward the $100,000 until until checks are deposited in the bank, Johnson said.

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.

Johnson said herself and Jeff Watling, city director of parks, recreation and community services, will sit down and based on the financial resources available make a recommendation to Mayor Suzette Cooke about whether to reopen Safe Havens.

“We would like to have a decision by the end of next week,” Johnson said.

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 about $100,000 of the annual operating budget of $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.

Johnson said donations of $100,000 would keep the facility open through October. Another $30,000 then would be needed for the remainder of the year.

People have stepped forward to help keep Safe Havens open.

“I’m humbled, it makes me cry,” Parker said. “I can’t believe how kind people have been.”

Parker said she received a call the evening of April 30 from the Lucky Seven Foundation to help raise $34,000 by matching each donated dollar up to $17,000.

“People donated twice when they heard about a match,” Parker said. “It’s been amazing.”

One family of a woman who uses the facility pledged $5,000.

“They want us to be here for her,” Parker said.

Parker hopes the money raised in such a short time influences city officials to keep the facility open.

“Our ultimate goal is $100,000 but to raise $50,000 in two weeks is pretty impressive,” Parker said.

Parker spent May 4 calling the 55 families currently using the facility to let them know they would not be able to visit this week.

“We have no place to refer them to because other places are not as safe,” Parker said. “We will call them again when a decision is made. We hope to be open again next week.”

Since the opening of Safe Havens, state and county funding assistance has been an annual request by the city. City officials have tried to get the state or a nonprofit group to fund the program, especially since nearly 80 percent of the clients served by Safe Havens are from outside of Kent.

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 www.formdesk.com/kccadv/SafeHavens. Donations are tax deductible.

For more information about Safe Havens, go to www.kccadv.org/Events/Save_Safe_Havens.htm.


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