SEQUIM — Sequim’s Police Department is moving forward with a pilot program to help low-income people and those in poor health during emergencies.
Funds from such non-governmental organizations as churches and service agencies will go to the Human Services Emergency Fund overseen by the city so police can provide individuals or families with hotel room vouchers and emergency cash cards for clothing, meals and transportation.
“It’s a novel approach to dealing with crisis,” Police Chief Bill Dickinson said.
He emphasized that cash won’t go to those in need but rather toward vouchers for food, gas and/or sleeping bags.
“It takes care of immediate needs that may be happening in the middle of the night,” Dickinson said. “It’s another mechanism for us to help.”
The Sequim City Council on Monday unanimously approved a resolution to establish the fund.
The fund was co-coordinated by the Rev. Bob Rhoads from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church after he and church members found requests for assistance growing exponentially in recent years.
Church and service agency leaders met in March to discuss options, which led to the idea of the fund.
“I think this is an exciting partnership with the community, City Council, police and faith community,” Rhoads said.
“This is win-win for everyone.”
Funding so far
So far, Rhoads said his church, Trinity United Methodist Church and an anonymous donor have contributed $500 each to the fund.
Rhoads said the fund has two priorities.
The first is to be more effective and efficient in providing aid to people rather than them going from place to place.
The second is to prevent individuals from abusing the benevolence of churches.
Following the March meeting, leaders with churches and service agencies are now on a service list that shows when they provide assistance, Rhoads said, so they’ll know what one another is doing.
“The advantage of a centralized system is that many of the people who walk in are in crisis mode 95 percent of the time, but now we can refer them to the police department for this, or if it’s for their electricity bill, then they can go to Sequim Community Aid,” he said.
Dickinson said the fund “allows us to make sure someone is safe” when emergencies happen in the middle of the night.
It would allow police officers to provide hotel vouchers and bus passes and then encourage individuals to contact a service agency the next morning.
Dickinson said the fund isn’t a substitute for service agencies or programs.
City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the fund will be overseen by the city’s financial staff and the state auditor.
Ritchie said police serve many roles as the city’s “social services provider, mental health provider, community health provider as well as law enforcement,” so city staff is “willing to see if [the fund] works.”
City Councilwoman Candace Pratt said the city should contribute to it.
“We have so few facilities for the homeless and indigent,” she said. “This is such a good beginning. I’m very pleased with it.”
Churches and service agencies will meet again at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at St. Luke’s, 525 N. Fifth Ave., with a presentation by Serenity House of Clallam County.
For more information about the fund and/or to donate, call the police department at 360-683-7227.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach hin at [email protected]