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Closure Of Safe Havens A Test Of Local Values

May 3, 2010

A few months ago Seattle found out it was in danger of losing its annual 4th of July fireworks show due to a lack of funding after Chase Bank said it wouldn’t foot the bill.  Half a million dollars needed to be raised in 3 days to save the event.

Guess what?  The money was raised.  Thanks to big and small businesses and everyday citizens, the show will go on.

The triumph was touted as a display of real values.  Saving the show apparently meant more than saving fireworks.  It meant we value community and tradition.  It meant we value our country’s independence.

Not everyone was excited to see the show saved.  Many, included me, wondered what else half a million dollars could be spent on; education, homelessness, food and meal support for hungry families.  We were quickly chastised.  I was even called a party pooper and a fuddy duddy.

I enjoy a good party just as much as the next person.  However, I continue to question the values of the greater Seattle area- and here’s why.

Last week it was announced that Safe Haven, a domestic violence family visitation support center would close due to a lack of funding.

Located in Kent, Safe Havens focuses on keeping adult and child victims of domestic violence safe during court-ordered visitation or exchanges. The shelter opened in January of 2005 with help from federal funding. Since then, Safe Havens has relied on a combination of federal dollars, as well as funding from the state, King County and the City of Kent. But government has had to cut back at all levels because of tax revenues are down.

Safe Havens has served more than 300 families since it opened. The meetings between children and suspected abusive parents are always supervised. The facility is equipped with security cameras and audio monitors. Services are in more than 20 languages and their client roster is filled to capacity with dozens of more families on a waiting list.

So how much money does Safe Havens need to stay open for the rest of the year?  Half a million dollars?  Nope.  Try fifty thousand.

We can throw away half a million dollars for 12 minutes of pretty lights, but we can’t invest three hundred thousand dollars a year to ensure children and parents are safe during family visits?  The agency only needs fifty thousand dollars to continue serving families this year.

Do we value programs like Safe Havens?  Would saving them mean we value our communities, and we value keeping them safe?  I think so.

So where’s the money going to come from?  I have an idea.  Since Chase bank didn’t spend half a million dollars on fireworks this year, why don’t they spend the bargain basement price of fifty thousand dollars to keep Safe Havens open. Now that’s a too big too fail bank I can believe in.

In all seriousness though, the City of Kent has established a fund for the shelter.  I’ve sent my small contribution- it’s time for you to send yours. 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, or you can pay online through the King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website here.

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