For the first time in a long time — maybe ever — the YWCA of Kitsap County will have a storefront office on Bainbridge Island.
The humanitarian group is moving into an office this week in the nonprofit Marge Williams Center on Winslow Way.
“We’ve had services available on Bainbridge Island for years,” said Denise Frey, executive director of the YWCA Kitsap. “But we were sort of hidden in the (municipal) courthouse. We just really felt we needed more of a presence on Bainbridge.”
The YWCA of Kitsap County has a mission of helping survivors of domestic violence and their children. It offers legal advocacy and family services, job counseling, along with housing if needed. Its main location is in Bremerton and it operates the ALIVE domestic violence shelter there.
On Bainbridge, there has been a part-time counselor stationed at the courthouse to aid victims when they came to file protections orders or other legal documents.
“If the victims weren’t somehow in the legal system, we often didn’t see them and they didn’t know we were here to help them,” Frey said. “Our motivation (to open a downtown office) is that we want a presence in Winslow so women will feel comfortable coming in.”
The YWCA has the resources to have the office through grants and donations. Staff work in cooperation with the Kitsap Sexual Assault Center (KSAC) to provide services.
“KSAC works most often with children who are victims of sexual abuse,” she said. “They have clinical therapists. So by working together, we find that they offer services we don’t and we have services, like housing, that they don’t offer.”
Because the YWCA is locating in the nonprofit center, the rent will be less than the going rates downtown.
The Marge Williams Center, which has been around for 15 years, is named after a longtime Bainbridge volunteer, town councilor and downtown advocate. Williams once lived in the second story of red building at 221 Winslow Way West. She lost her life in tragic circumstances in her second story apartment during the late 1990s. After her death, a group of local philanthropists organized a campaign to raise funds to buy the building and name it in her honor, with the plan to offer offices to nonprofits at a steeply discounted rate.
With an office in the center, the YWCA will also have access to a conference room, a copier, high-speed WiFi and all utilities.
“Right now we only have one big desk that we’re moving from our Bremerton office,” Frey said. “But it’s a small office and we don’t need much.”
On the wish list are toddler toys, coloring supplies, small toy baskets, small children’s table and chairs, an office desk chair with armrests, two other chairs for the office, a locking file cabinet and window shades.
Olena Delballe, of Poulsbo, has been hired as the advocate for the Bainbridge office. She will spend Mondays and Tuesdays at the courthouse, Wednesdays working on projects in Poulsbo including the Morrow Manor (a housing project that is underway for domestic violence survivors and their children), and Thursdays and Fridays at the Winslow Way office to meet with clients and walk-in visitors.
Currently the YWCA has no emergency housing located on Bainbridge Island for domestic violence victims.
Frey said the housing in Poulsbo, once completed, is convenient and there’s always the opportunity to negotiate arrangements with hotels on Bainbridge.
“We find that many times women stay with their abusers because they have nowhere else to go,” Frey said. “We want them to know that there is an alternative and we can help them find a place.”
Frey knows that there are those who think situations of domestic violence don’t happen on Bainbridge Island because the average resident is affluent.
But Bainbridge police reported 170 calls to 911 in 2015 related to domestic violence.
“Because of the socioeconomic makeup of Bainbridge Island, there are a number of domestic violence victims that don’t go public,” Frey said. “And because of their (upper)class, they carry more shame.
“But we have dealt with women on Bainbridge who we’ve had to move off the island because they were in danger. Domestic violence affects every socioeconomic class there is and that’s never been more true than on Bainbridge Island.”
An open house is set for Wednesday, Dec. 7. Go to www.ywcakitsap.org for more information.
To make arrangements to make a donation, contact Sara Harvey at 360-479-0522, ext. 107.