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Bothell slashes funding for domestic violence program

City of Bothell - Contributed
City of Bothell
— image credit: Contributed

LifeWire, an Eastside domestic violence program, recently lost city funding after the Bothell City Council adopted the 2013-14 biennial budget on Dec. 11.

“We’re not funding (LifeWire) in the 2013-14 budget,” said Bothell Deputy City Manager Steve Anderson. “LifeWire is a King County provider and we need to keep funds in Snohomish County.”

The organization, formerly known as the Eastside Domestic Violence Program, had been receiving funds from Bothell for roughly 15 years, in addition to other funding from cities around the Eastside.

Assistant City Manager Terrie Battuello acknowledged that the city had been a longtime fiscal supporter of LifeWire, but since 2009 officials found Bothell residents are not qualifying for the program or being serviced.

“Our obligation with our tax money is to support our residents,” said Battuello. “They (LifeWire) can’t customize their program to meet our needs.”

Battuello said 50-60 Bothell victims are in need of immediate shelter annually but she says LifeWire reserves shelters for people in “extreme poverty and at an imminent risk.”

In addition, there is no geographical preference when it comes to qualifying victims in need.

However, LifeWire Executive Director Barbara Langdon said those who get to stay in the shelter, which holds 10 families at a time, are screened for lethality.

“To be candid, it’s ‘who’s most likely to be killed?’” Langdon said of the victims who are given alternative housing at LifeWire. “It has nothing to do with poverty or location.”

Langdon noted they determine lethality based on whether perpetrators have threatened to kill victims or the victim’s own suicide as well as if there are guns in the house.

But as a whole, LifeWire is assisting 81 families with 164 children through their housing services, which includes the hotel-motel voucher program, as well as their community-based housing services programs.

Before the City of Bothell adopted the biennial budget, Kirkland resident Bill Henkens testified before the council, asking city officials to reconsider.

“As a society, we need to educate our children at an early age as to what is not acceptable,” Henkens told the Bothell City Council in November. “Outreach programs will be crippled with these funding cuts and that is simply not acceptable.”

Henkens said the city cut $17,000 from LifeWire (over a two-year period), which directly affects the educational outreach for students in middle school and high school.

“We must protect our mothers, sisters and daughters and we must educate them to be aware of the early warning sings of domestic violence,” Henkens said.

Henkens is a restaurant owner in Kirkland and a longtime advocate against domestic violence. His daughter is a therapist and does teen outreach for LifeWire.

LifeWire’s development director Kelly Becker said while Bothell city officials are the first to recommend a staggering “zero” in their funding for LifeWire, other cities continue to give a static amount in a time when the program needs more.

“This is a year of exceptional need,” Becker said. “As resources decrease across the country, the request for life-saving services, shelter and basic needs continues to grow. The challenging economy has had a serious impact on the families we serve, with deeper cuts in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and General Assistance Unemployable, cuts in state benefits and the lack of affordable housing.”

She says many victims are forced to make a choice: live in an abusive home or become homeless.

Langdon also notes that LifeWire surpassed all program goals in Bothell by holding 988 advocacy sessions, 358 crisis line calls and 278 support group sessions in their first three quarters this year. Data shows their original goal for Bothell was 839 for advocacy, 196 for crisis line calls and 94 sessions for support groups.

But Bothell domestic violence coordinator Sharon Haley said Bothell is proactive in ensuring victims of abuse are taken care of.

“I’ve seen new things come in since I’ve been here,” said Haley. “(The city seems) to be trying to do more. When I made the request for the panel, (Battuello) went right for it. When I expressed concerns about victims getting shelter, she seemed to address it right away. They really seem to be listening and I really appreciate what they’ve done.”

The panel Haley is referring to is a proposed domestic violence victim panel that would be similar to the Snohomish County Police Department’s program, which is designed to show perpetrators the impact of their abusive behavior. Haley said the panel is comprised of domestic violence victims, a former perpetrator and a someone from the police department. The panel members then speak about their different experiences as a way to positively influence the abuser.

“City of Bothell has taken an active stance against domestic violence, it’s a real concern to us,” Battuello said. “We’re pretty involved in making sure the scarce resources we do have go toward the most important services.”

According to Becker, one in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, which is the leading cause of homelessness among women and children in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year “intimate partner” violence results in 1,200 deaths and two million injuries among women and 600,000 injuries among men in the nation.

LifeWire currently assists in answering more than 10,000 help line calls and provides services to more than 5,000 victims in one year.

 

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