The National Bureau of Economic Research declared that the Great Recession ended in June 2009, but as unemployment in Washington state at almost nine percent, that is scant comfort to many local families.
According to the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, as of January 2010, almost 573 people were homeless on the east side of Lake Washington (See: http://www.cehkc.org/scope/cost.aspx and http://www.homelessinfo.org/one_night_count/).
In the past month, Renewal Food Bank of Bellevue has seen evidence that this number is increasing. More families than before are living in their cars, and the food bank, which previously provided food to almost 175 families per week, is now providing food to almost 250 families per week.
This situation was highlighted during the Renewal Food Bank Fundraiser and Awareness Breakfast 2010, held on Thursday, Sept. 23 at Bellevue Foursquare Church. Afterward, Gabriella Van Breda, executive director of the food bank, agreed to a video interview and gave additional details about the problem and how the public can help.
Transcript of Interview with Gabriella Van Breda
Sean: Gaby, tell us, what sorts of services does Renewal Food Bank provide to the community, and to whom?
Gabriella: We provide food, obviously, to those who have fallen on hard times, to people who’ve lost jobs, especially in this current economic climate, but we provide a lot more than food. We also have a clothing bank here in cooperation with the City of Bellevue. We have people who come once a month and receive clothing and, especially now in the winter, warm winter coats, and whatever it is that they need, in terms of clothing. But more than handing out food and providing clothing, we’re a community-based organization that actually facilitates partnerships with our community, in a way that enables kids to serve and to birth compassion and giving back in their lives.
Sean: What signs have you seen recently here at Renewal Food Bank that homelessness is on the rise in the Eastside, because that’s what we’re hearing people from the City of Bellevue to the police department say, is that it is on the rise.
Gabriella: I would say just in the last month alone, I have personally known of six or seven families that are homeless, living in their cars. I got a call last night, as a matter of fact, from a young man who had come to this area to go to Bellevue College, and for some reason, he is not able to afford the fees, and he is living in his car, and he got our telephone number and called and said he desperately needs some food, and could we help him. He asked me to call him back. He said he charges his cell phone at grocery stores or hotels, because basically he is homeless. So homelessness is definitely on the rise. There are a lot of people that have lost their homes that are living in their cars, and families with children, which is the most [pause] which is the saddest thing.
Sean: Have contributions from the community kept up with this need?
Gabriella: As you can see currently, our food sources are down substantially. We had at least a 30-percent increase in clients coming to our food bank. We’re feeding anything between 250 and 270 families per week, and we really, at this stage, need far more resources to continue the work that we’re doing. In our 12-year history, I don’t think we have ever been this low on resources, so food is welcome.
Sean: How can people in the community help in addition to, obviously, bringing food in? What other ways?
Gabriella: Other ways that could help are, number one, is to spread awareness about our work, and to ensure that if they know of anyone who is homeless, or anyone who is going through a hard time, we want to provide food for them. Send them to our food bank. Even if they’re an emergency visit, we are open for emergencies. We do not want anyone to fall between the cracks in our community. A way they can do it is to keep their ears and their eyes open for people in need.
Sean: Thank you, Gaby. We’ll include a link to your Website so people can locate you.
Gabriella: Thank you so much.
Renewal Food Bank’s hours, location and contact information are:
Monday, 9 a.m. to noon & 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, 9 a.m. to noon
2015 Richards Road, Bellevue, Washington 98005 (MAP)
Teen Closet, Renewal Food Bank’s monthly clothing bank program, is held on the final Tuesday of each month from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the food banks address, shown above. To help the clothing bank program program, call Patrick Alina at 425.452.5254.