WISH gets unprecedented second chance at funding

Whidbey Island Share a Home is getting an unprecedented second chance to turn in a request for funding for 2013 with a county Housing Advisory Board review committee.

Whidbey Island Share a Home is getting an unprecedented second chance to turn in a request for funding for 2013 with a county Housing Advisory Board review committee.Kathy Reed / The Record | Whidbey Island Share a Home will have house-shaped banks available at businesses around the island from Oct. 29 through Nov. 11. Residents are urged to take a bank home, fill it with spare change and return the donation.

Just last week, WISH board members said things looked bleak financially for the nonprofit home-share group because it didn’t appear they had been successful in their request for funding from Island County.

“Our board president, Craig McKenzie, had written Jackie Henderson (director of Island County Human Services) directly last Thursday (to ask if WISH could reapply),” said WISH Executive Director TJ Harmon. “Jackie confirmed on Sept. 12, Friday, that they were going to allow us to resubmit.”

Henderson was quick to point out that allowing WISH to resubmit their funding request is not a guarantee of funds and the group is only being allowed to do so because it had filed a request previously and has complied with several of the points with which the original review committee took issue.

“It was the review committee’s recommendation to the Housing Advisory Board that the WISH proposal didn’t meet the guidelines of the RFP and shouldn’t be funded at that time,” said Henderson. “I know at that time the review committee said perhaps the next time funding comes around they could apply again.”

Since the original application was rejected, WISH board members said the group has tried hard to comply with the stipulations of the review committee. Harmon was hired as the executive director in May and said she immediately asked to look at the original funding request and met with Henderson in order to have a clear understanding of what the county’s expectations are.

“It’s a long shot and it’s not something that’s ever been done in the past, but the point of view I have is they didn’t turn it down, so it’s a positive light on the situation,” Harmon said.

“We are giving them a second chance,” Henderson acknowledged. “It’s tough to do because it is public money. We have to have a process in place because of that, otherwise it would be unmanageable.

“But we recognize they have done a lot of things the review committee said they needed to do,” she continued. “Because they applied before and were turned down, we told them we would let them redo the application.”

Once WISH resubmits its application, the original review committee will be assembled to consider it. The committee’s recommendation will be sent to the HAB. If the application is accepted, the HAB will send the funding request on to the Board of Island County commissioners.

“They are going to have to meet the scope of the work that was outlined in the original proposal,” said Henderson. “They have to be able to assure us they are providing services to people at risk of being homeless.”

The WISH program works by matching people who own homes with people in need of affordable housing. Providers and seekers submit applications to WISH, which conducts criminal background checks and extensive interviews before placing names on a profile list. Providers and seekers look through the list to find potential matches and WISH will provide contact information for serious candidates.

The group received $70,000 in funding from the county for 2011-2012. WISH conducts just one major fundraiser each year, from Oct. 29 through Nov. 11. Small, house-shaped banks will be available at participating businesses throughout Whidbey Island. Participants fill the banks with spare change and bring them back by Nov. 11. The effort has brought in about $10,000 in previous years, which still isn’t enough to keep the program’s doors open. Harmon said she is happy to hear a possible funding opportunity knocking.

“We’re very, very grateful and appreciate the opportunity to show we are a viable and much-needed program,” said Harmon.