Bellevue’s new homelessness coordinator modeled off Redmond position

Stephanie Martinez will work to connect people with the resources availabile to them.

Stephanie Martinez was hired as Bellevue’s first homelessness outreach coordinator in September. Photo courtesy of City of Bellevue

Stephanie Martinez was hired as Bellevue’s first homelessness outreach coordinator in September. Photo courtesy of City of Bellevue

Bellevue has added a new position, someone who will provide direct assistance to those without housing, and coordinate the efforts of the city and outside agencies to find people paths to homes.

Stephanie Martinez was hired as Bellevue’s first homelessness outreach coordinator in September, after the funding for the spot was approved during the last city budget cycle.

Martinez has worked at LifeWire in Bellevue, as a community-based housing advocate and for the city of Tacoma, as a program development specialist and on the Tacoma police homeless outreach team. Most recently Martinez headed-up a statewide evaluation of California’s Domestic Violence Housing First funding program.

“The position will bridge the gap between all the folks doing different things for the homeless and report out on how we’re doing,” said Nancy LaCombe, city of Bellevue assistant director.

Martinez has spent a majority of her first weeks learning the ins and outs of the other agencies in Bellevue. That knowledge will come in handy when she connects people with resources in the city.

“Bellevue PD is already doing homelessness related work and encampment response,” Martinez said. “I’ll be working along side them, making sure folks get connected.”

The job is mirrored after the spot Kent Hay currently occupies in Redmond. As the outreach program administrator since 2016, Hay has helped people remove the barriers impeding stable jobs and housing.

Hay contacts people sleeping outside in tents or cars, and first educates on the services available to them. If they find themselves in trouble with the law, there’s a community court housed in the Redmond library for low-level offenders. Also at the library is a resource center — a cluster of agencies available to anyone and everyone who stops by.

“We want to make sure they understand you can’t just come to Redmond and be homeless,” Hay said. “You have to participate in getting out of that situation.”

He said people often swing one way or the other when approaching what has become known as the homelessness crisis. One approach is to give someone resources and wait for them to participate, not pushing them to engage. The other approach is to not offer any help and let them fend for themselves.

“Both sides are failing,” Hay said. “To me there’s a middle.”

In this role, Hay said he’s come to understand that a lot of the agencies weren’t working well together, separate nonprofits weren’t coordinating. He acts as a connector between them. He gets referrals from agencies, and helps put plans together with people. Plans to not just find a job or a home for the time, but to address any issues or problems that stand in the way of permanent employment and housing.

Sometimes that means filing for food stamps through the Department of Social and Health Services. It also means he takes phone calls, for those without cellphones, and relays the message. He’s also set up a mechanism to get people’s mail, an important resource to have to ensure services stay in place.

“Services are really hard to navigate if you don’t have someone who will help you through the process,” Hay said. “I think the system is set up not to help you.”

He couldn’t do the work without the support of the Redmond Police Department, and other city departments, he said. And the ultimate goal is for every city to have their own outreach worker, where unlike at some agencies, there is no in-take or exit from the program.

“If someone disappears, the plan is still the same,” Hay said. “If I haven’t seen someone in a month, the plan is still the same. We start from where we left off from.”

More in News

Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, the primary sponsor of SB 5323, speaking on the bill. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Sabio-Howell)
Proposed law adds a fee to plastic bags at checkout

Senate passes bill to ban single-use plastic bags, place 8-cent fee on reusable plastic bags.

Development has encroached on the East Lake Sammamish Trail (at right). Joe Livarchik/file photo
King County files lawsuit to finish East Lake Sammamish Trail

Homeowners have until September to remove buildings and other property from the right of way.

Bellevue residents Marko and Karla Ilicic play a hockey game in the Topgolf Swing Suite inside Forum Social House. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
Forum Social House opens in Bellevue

Eastside gets new nightclub, mini golf, swing suites.

In November 2019, Washington voters approved Initiative 976, which calls for $30 car tabs. Sound Publishing file photo
Republicans try to guarantee $30 car tabs amid court hangup

Lawmakers sponsor companion bills in the House and Senate.

A holistic approach to government: Forsythe joins Redmond City Council

The new councilmember hopes to address issues relating to the environment, infrastructure and representing all of Redmond.

King County Metro’s battery-electric bus. Photo courtesy of
King County could bump up Metro electrification deadlines

Transportation generates nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his 2020 State of the State Address on Tuesday, Jan. 14. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Office of the Governor)
Gov. Inslee delivers State of the State Address

By Leona Vaughn, WNPA News Service OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee stood… Continue reading

A 50-minute film called “Spawning Grounds,” which documents the effort to save a freshwater variety of kokanee salmon from Lake Sammamish, is finally ready for its debut in North Bend on Jan. 18. (Screenshot from film)
Spawning Grounds: Lake Sammamish kokanee documentary premieres Jan. 18

The film tracks the ‘all hands on deck’ effort to save the little red fish from extinction.

LWSD closed Monday due to snow; Redmond plows working to improve road conditions

District-wide closures can be complicated due to LWSD’s 76-square-mile footprint and varying microclimates.

Most Read