It seemed like a normal Saturday morning. When Isabelle woke up, she expected her normal morning routine of getting up, greeting her grandmother and playing with her little brother. Her mom was usually gone, working her Saturday shift, while Isabelle’s grandmother cared for her and her brother.
Walking into the kitchen, Isabelle felt a pit in her stomach. She saw her mother sitting at the table with her head in her hands. She had seen this look of concern before and she knew it wasn’t good. Mom said that she lost her job. Her company had to let a majority of its staff go due to the ramifications of COVID-19.
With Isabelle’s mom laid off, everything changed. Isabelle watched her mom using the calculator to figure out how much money would be left after she paid next month’s rent. She held her brother’s hand at the grocery store as they watched their mom do the math to see how much food they could purchase for $15.
Isabelle was afraid. She didn’t like seeing her mom upset and she didn’t want to see the piece of paper on the front door that said they have to leave again. Her story is just one example of too many children in Bellevue who are facing homelessness as a result of COVID-19. Homelessness is extremely hard on parents and even more traumatic for children.
Bellevue’s Growing Need
Sitting between the shores of Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, Bellevue is one of the most sought after and most expensive places to live in Washington state. With a booming economy, top-ranked schools, art, nature and more, Bellevue has a lot to offer. The Bellevue economy needs employees like Isabelle’s mom to help businesses thrive. COVID-19 resulted in thousands of individuals like Isabelle’s mom to be furloughed and now struggling to make ends meet.
Many low-income families have lived in Bellevue for years. They chose to live close to where they work and close to their family to maintain a strong support network. Relocating to a more affordable city or state is not an option because of the expenses of first month’s rent, last month’s rent, damage deposit and moving expenses. Families also want to avoid having to take their children out of the only schools and communities they have ever known.
Today, more than 3,500 Bellevue children and their families are living in poverty. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, it put these already vulnerable families at even greater risk of experiencing homelessness
“COVID-19 has highlighted the number of families that are truly in need here on the Eastside. There is a big assumption that everyone in Bellevue is financially well off. This crisis is exposing the drastic levels of income inequality that exist here,” shared Carlos Vargas, Bellevue LifeSpring Human Services Administrator. “We hear from families that they have lost their jobs and are nervous about the fate of their living situations. They don’t know if next month there will be enough money to cover the rent. No one in our community should have to live with the fear of being evicted.”
The cost of living and rent in King County have risen dramatically. Families enrolled in our Breaktime-Mealtime program spend more than half of their income on rent. Before COVID-19, parents were already facing the difficult choice between paying rent or putting food on the table. This crisis is forcing these issues to the forefront. When living paycheck to paycheck, just one unanticipated expense can put you on the brink of homelessness. The domino effect of this period of instability will last far beyond 2020.
Together, We Can Prevent Homelessness
Thanks to community members like you, since March 15, we have provided rent payments for 116 families with 251 children with our emergency rent assistance program. This program covers the entire cost of a family’s rent for the month they are unable to pay, a huge weight lifted off a family’s shoulders.
The demand for this assistance is only growing. To date, we have received over 260 calls for families inquiring about rent assistance. Our board voted to waive the requirement of a 14-day eviction notice so we can begin helping families before the eviction ban lifts.
With the effects of an economic downturn looming, we anticipate the increased need for emergency rent support to continue for several months.
In the midst of this new normal, there are a lot of unknowns, but one thing is definite – our services are essential for Bellevue families living in poverty. Please help us prevent any child from experiencing homelessness as a result of COVID-19 by contributing to our emergency response fund today.