Homelessness in Bellevue is on the rise. The city's homeless population increased 16 percent from last year.
According to the 2018 One Night Count, there are 393 homeless in east King County, which is up 23 percent; Bellevue's homeless population is 174 of that 393.
"I think the problem is a lot bigger than we like to admit here in Bellevue," said Cynthia Brown.
Brown in the Director of Emergency Service for The Sophia Way, an organization helping homeless women on the eastside.
The Sophia Way just received a $100,000 gift from Symetra, a Bellevue-based insurance company, to run their emergency night shelter through the fall. The organization usually only has funding to run it through the end of May.
“I can provide 75 more nights of safe sleeping for women who would otherwise be outside,” said Brown.
The shelter is currently housed in St. Peter’s United Methodist Church but moves around every few months. It moves because there is no permanent homeless shelter in Bellevue.
“We need the community to realize this is going to happen no matter what. The question is how many people we are going to support and how many people we are going to turn away,” said Linda Benson, also of The Sophia Way.
There is no zoning code to allow a permanent homeless shelter on private or public property in the city. Religious entities are exempt from that.
Bellevue City Council is currently working on a land use ordinance that would allow permanent shelters in the city. The council is voting on that ordinance July 16.
Brown hopes the ordinance passes so Bellevue could one day have a permanent shelter for the growing homeless population.
“These are real people, real women who don’t have a safe place to be," she said.