SEQUIM — Just two meetings in, they have a name, a fund to help the homeless (almost) and plenty of momentum.
Sequim Cares, a coalition of representatives from Sequim-area faith groups and nonprofits with the goal of helping solve local homelessness issues, is seeing its first project come to fruition thanks to a collaboration with the Sequim Police Department and the city.
Speaking at the group’s second-ever meeting May 19 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Sequim Police Chief Bill Dickinson told the group that a fund to help community members in emergency situations is close to becoming a reality.
The Human Services Emergency Fund would funnel community donations to those with immediate need of housing, food or other basic requirements.
St. Luke’s the Rev. Bob Rhoads proposed the idea and gained support from the Sequim Cares group at its inaugural April meeting.
Dickinson said similar funds had been established throughout the country, but some steps had to be taken to establish a legal and secure process for the city to accept donations.
After hearing of the fund in March, community members made donations to it prior to its official establishment, including a $1,000 donation.
All donations to the Human Services Emergency Fund are tax-deductible because the funds flow through the city, Dickinson said.
The police chief said staff will assess the impact and importance of the fund after several months.
He noted that some individuals may try to abuse the system by consistently asking for gift cards or housing vouchers. Officers will have to make some judgment calls in most situations, he noted.
“Officers really want to help people in crisis,” Dickinson said. “On the other hand, we know we’re going to have to say no to some people. We need Band-Aids to hold it together for some people.”
A steady population growth among local residents seeking assistance at St. Luke’s and other churches has local faith and social service group staffers looking for better ways to connect them with services in the area.
Rhoads said he sees the need each week. On May 18, St. Luke’s saw a packed house for its free Wednesday soup-and-sandwich offering. Rhoads said the church served 156 bowls of soup.
Sequim Cares meets at 2 p.m. on the third Thursday, every two months, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 525 N. Fifth Ave. The next meeting is set for 2 p.m. July 21.
Michael Dashiell is an editor with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected]