How are the Services I need funded?July 7, 2017
I recently wrote a column for the Redmond Reporter (http://www.redmond-reporter.com/opinion/five-things-you-may-not-know-about-human-services-guest-column/) which included some of the information I’ve posted here previously. This includes:
- What are Human Services?
- Why do you need Human Services in such a wealthy community?
- Why are all those homeless people coming here?
My column added answers to a couple other questions we receive regularly as well.
- Why is XYZ service (name your service) not available to me, now that I need it?, and
- Why don’t you get volunteers to fill the gaps?
The first question is really a “How are Human Services Funded” question. Although agencies vary (Together Center, for example, operates from lease income and contributions), 80% of funding for human services comes from government: cities, county, state and federal. If you track the King County or State budget processes (both of which have specific funding challenges) then you can see the impact on human services, although you may not be aware of the correlation. An agency you need may lose staff or an entire program as budgets are balanced away from human services.
In response to cutbacks, it is routinely suggested that volunteers and faith communities can carry the day. (When I shared my column with a colleague, it was this point that got her highly energized: “Include that!” she said. “We are always told that!”) While volunteers and church communities are critically important to our work currently, as are private donations and corporate grants (thank you!), trained staff and professional oversight are generally required to provide safe, equitable and effective services. We need sustainable and consistent funding to see results. The stakes are high. Your family’s human services, and mine, depend on it.
Supporting Each OtherOctober 3, 2016
You know who else goes to a lot of fundraisers? Nonprofit staff. We believe in each others’ causes, and we show up with our credit cards to support each other’s work knowing how important it is.
We meet together in a variety of alliances as well, and the topic is often NOT our own programs. Together Center is the fiscal sponsor of Alliance of Eastside Agencies (www.allianceofeastsideagencies.org) and I sit on the Working Group of the Eastside Human Services Forum and its marketing committee (www.eastsideforum.org), among other groups. At each, I see housing experts working on veteran’s funding and disability experts weighing in on senior supports or early childhood education.
It takes a system of community support for all of our programs to work well, or else as we help in one area, people lose ground in another. A full complement of services is essential to meet even one person’s or family’s needs, not to mention a community’s. Together Center was formed on this principal, and we are grateful for our many partners.
- Pictured are King County Council Member Kathy Lambert, Eastside Baby Corner Executive Director Renee Zimmerman and Hopelink CEO Lauren Thomas at Together Center’s breakfast earlier this year. Our 2017 Together Strong breakfast is set for March 24 at 7:30 a.m., and we hope you will join us.
What are human services?June 1, 2016
Today we celebrated outstanding contributions to human services at the Alliance of Eastside Agencies annual awards luncheon (learn more at www.allianceofeastsideagencies.org). Together Center supports the Eastside Human Services Forum and the King County Alliance for Human Services. Together Center is a human services campus.
Yet, despite our nonprofit sector’s deciding that the term “human services” defines us, lately, I have been struck by the fact that the words we use for our work are not understood by the community at large. You work in human resources? Your campus helps employers with staffing?
The go-to words for our world used to be social services, which is better understood, but this is often heard as a focus on counseling and social work, when our work encompasses financial issues, health, education support, job training and employment (seen in our photo) and much more. Charity work is no longer considered appropriate, with its suggestion of an outmoded class system.
We in the nonprofit sector (we say N.G.Os, when talking to those from elsewhere: nongovernmental organizations, or community action agencies, when talking to ourselves) bemoan that we often don’t reach beyond our own ilk: we want to build community support, but we mostly talk to other nonprofits.
People don’t know what we are and what we do.
Together Center is a campus of health, housing and human service agencies. (Does that help?) Those agencies include medical and dental care, child care supports and referral, autism advocacy and legislative work, life-long supports for developmentally-disabled adults, support groups for parents with mentally-ill children, overnight shelter for homeless youth, help gaining federally supported housing and to keep elder adults in their own homes and much, much more.
Are there better words for what we do? We’re listening.
Beyond Colocation – Doing More for People Seeking HelpJune 29, 2015
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Nonprofit Centers Network (NCN) conference, Building Opportunities, in Vancouver, BC. NCN is the bi-national organization that has taken the lead in promoting and enhancing the development and operation of shared spaces. If you want to learn about model one-stop hubs and see cutting edge projects around the continent, this is the group with which to connect.
This is the third NCN meeting at which I have spoken. The panel discussion I developed focused on serving clients, often a missing piece for me at these gatherings which provide exceptional information on financing and building centers and sharing back-office services. The topic: Beyond Colocation: Enhanced Services for Clients.
The benefits to clients of colocating agencies (setting multiple services in one location) are obvious in the human services arena. Most people who need help require an array of services provided by more than one organization. Those using medical services need mental health supports. Families seeking housing may need financial counseling. The examples are endless. Where services are located next to one another, clients can easily find the many programs they need.
But what happens when the services provided are not enough? What happens when financial, language or other barriers limit the ability to navigate to services. Or when the services are not there? What is the role of a one stop center? What do we provide beyond colocation for people seeking help?
We believe our job is to provide someone with whom people can talk and receive help navigating what is often a very difficult system. Years ago a “wayfinding expert” (we thought we hired a “sign guy”) taught us that no matter how sophisticated your signage, 15% of people will always want to talk directly to someone face to face. If that is true of getting from point A to point B, imagine the need to talk face to face while discussing your mother’s financial distress or your child’s mental illness.
One-stop centers do not come commonly with an information and referral expert, I have learned from NCN events. This is something that needs to be envisioned, planned and funded. At Together Center, we have full-time referral help. At our Front Door, we have also added advocates, a Cultural Navigator Program, free public phones, a touchscreen navigation system and much more.
Colocation is key to our ability to leverage the services of 20 agencies. Thinking beyond colocation is how we are doing more for people seeking help.
Community Perception & the Puzzle of HomelessnessMay 4, 2015
“Issaquah is attracting so many homeless people now.”
“(Insert city name) isn’t what it used to be: there are so many homeless.”
These are comments which have been made repeatedly in the City of Redmond certainly and are echoed in other cities on the Eastside. A recent meeting hosted by the City of Redmond to open a conversation on homelessness had over 100 attendees and even more could not all fit into the room.
Now Redmond Mayor John Marchione has invited 14, including me, to meet as part of a Task Force on Homelessness to better understand the scope and causes of homelessness, the systems in place to address needs and to identify concerns and solutions. A set of short- and longer-term actions for the community will result from work done over the spring and summer.
I have written about homelessness and housing issues in this blog. Together Center hosts agencies providing housing and homelessness supports, including A Regional Coalition for Housing and Friends of Youth’s youth shelter, The Landing. Yet, Meeting One of the Task Force provided information that has me already chewing on new understanding.
In a brief Homelessness 101, Mark Putnam of the Committee to End Homelessness reviewed reasons why people are homeless. In one study it was learned that nationally (in 2013) when average rental rates increased by just $100, homelessness increased by 15% in urban areas (31% in rural and suburban areas). Given our booming real estate market, this is a startling fact to consider.
Another observation was by Redmond Police Chief Ron Gibson who shared data on calls for service in the downtown Redmond area from January 2012 through December 2014. While property and person crimes have increased in a steady trend line (although “person crimes incidents” remain remarkably low), those arrested have not typically been homeless. Chief Gibson noted that the increasing sight of homeless people coupled with a trend line toward more crimes may have people feeling more vulnerable. These two facts (more crime, more homelessness) may, in fact, not be related.
Off to interesting work, for sure, on a very sad, frustrating and complicated issue.
Big Results in 180 seconds!February 3, 2015
Big results in 180 seconds? Okay. We are playing with words, but we are talking big results none the less.
Yearly at Together Center’s Annual Meeting, I have reminded the Board of Directors what we have achieved together in 90 seconds (in a bit of a silly race the clock) or in a sedate 180 seconds. Why so short? After a year of marking challenges and celebrating results, the Board has a very good idea of our organizational ups and downs. This review is simply a bit of confetti-tossing.
What happened in 2014? Here’s just a sampler:
- HealthPoint completed its $1.5 million expansion of their on-campus medical and dental clinics, in partnership with Together Center, greatly enhancing access to healthcare services regionally.
- We served 10,000 more people than in the previous years, thanks in part to a recovery from transition and the recession. 95% of the campus is now leased to support the medical, dental, mental health, housing, shelter, child care, disability and other needs in the community.
- The Center opened a new community room (with HealthPoint’s partnership) with space for significant training for campus staff and the community. Secondary Trauma (compassion fatigue) was an immediate training success.
- AtWork! and Together Center agreed to share city-owned property to meet mutual goals, and the City of Issaquah extended its $1,000,000 earmark to create a human service campus to serve the Issaquah area.
- We are growing funds to keep costs low for agencies, as we do more. We exceeded our fundraising goal and increased donated funds in 2014 by 54%!
- We’ve made plans for our 25th anniversary celebration on March 25, our inaugural fundraising breakfast. Celebrate with us by registering at www.togethercenter.org.
I’m retiring. How do I find a volunteer role?August 18, 2014
It’s not the first time I have been walked over to talk to someone at a party. “Talk to Pam,” the guest is told. The issue? “I am about to retire, and I know I will go crazy if I am not doing some kind of work. How do I volunteer somewhere?”
How do I volunteer? Easy answer: call up a nonprofit of interest, and ask that question. Most have a way to engage your skills or will ask you in to chat further. Some have a large volunteer engine with lots of choices. But a note of warning: a quick phone call may not get you filling the right role for you.
The party guest with questions for me was a project manager and wanted to do that kind of work in retirement. There is no doubt a lot of places that would welcome her skills, but this is a gift of time that will need the right organization and communication of expectations.
I would suggest thinking through a number of questions before calling an agency:
- Are you looking for a Board or leadership position or a hands-on helper role? That is, do you want to do policy and strategic planning or assist people in-person?
- Do you want to do something every so often, or do you want a weekly assignment?
- Do you want to work with others or prefer to work on your own?
- What kind of organization is of interest to you: environmental, health, arts, children, lobbying?
- Are you looking for new skills or to share your current skills?
A couple of online tools can lead you to a position. These are customized by location. Most familiar to us is United Way of King County’s website: www.uwkc.org/ways-to-volunteer. Another online tool that can be customized by location is www.volunteermatch.org.
Together Center actively seeks volunteers. We need leaders on our finance and property operations committee and on a fundraising and communications committee. We also have an ambassador program seeking those that would like to learn more about the Center and bring others to the campus on occasion. Let us know if you have an interest.
Bottom line: most nonprofits welcome volunteers and rely heavily on their efforts. Think about what you hope to do. Check out opportunities online, or give an agency of interest a call. You will be welcome!
Need information & referral? Start with 2-1-1April 28, 2014
Me: “Great. Make sure they also know to also call 2-1-1, the information and referral experts.”
Leader: “What? Who is that? Why have I never heard of that?”
Me: “I don’t know, but we need to get the word out.”
Daily at Together Center people walk in with requests for help and information. My adult daughter is schizophrenic and homeless, they may say. Or, I don’t understand the new insurance rules. It may be: I am about to lose my apartment. Or, my mother is disabled and needs help at home.
Because we operate a campus of, now, 20 health, housing and human services agencies, we often have an expert on our campus who can provide appropriate information or services. We often know of other area resources, as well. However, we never let people leave without the appropriate number for the countywide experts in information and referral.
Washington Information Network 211 launched in King County in 2006, and human services staff know it well. But strikingly, as my conversation sample above shows, community members at large do not.
From 8 am to 6 pm daily you can call with questions about any type of health or human service need. Like the more familiar 911 emergency number, you dial only three numbers to connect with referral experts. In addition to program information, they know how to gather the right information from you, and they utilize databases with detailed information on transportation, financial criteria, geography and more.
There’s also an online database at www.211.org.
If you have a question, by all means feel free to call Together Center. However, it’s not the first call we recommend for those looking for help. Because one of our goals is to make it easier for people to find the services they need, we’d like to introduce you to the experts.
If you are gathering information on available services, make your first call to 211.
Minimum wage: even for poverty workers, it’s not simpleJanuary 14, 2014
“Watch out, they will grow on you.”
Debbie Lacy’s dad gave this warning as she poured out pancake mix years ago. This came to mind as she was helming the meeting of the Eastside Human Services Forum working group. The topic was the $15 minimum wage issue. The group set a goal of developing a point of view from the human services perspective this year.
You would think it would be more of a no-brainer. With a room packed with people who work on poverty issues, the bias would seem to be clear. Income counters poverty, creates new consumers and addresses losses due to inflation. But watch out. It’s complicated.
• Sylvia Fuerstenberg, The Arc of King County’s Executive Director, noted that half their programs might be at risk if Seattle’s $15/hour minimum wage goes through without other supports. The contracted rate for staff wages supporting individuals with disabilities is allocated by the Washington State Legislature. If payments to The Arc and other providers of these services are not increased to fund a higher professional wage, programs for our most vulnerable citizens could disappear.
• Another pointed out the financial changes don’t just impact the lowest pay grade, but the whole payment scale as salaries for trained professional staff would need to be increased.
• For some agencies with income qualifications (sometimes set by the federal government) clients may no longer qualify for services if their income rises.
• If some cities in King County up their minimum wage, those who don’t will likely lose talented staff to organizations in higher paying regions.
Adjusting the minimum wage is a matter of justice and community health for many. “Let’s not let anxiety and the chaos of change roll over the excitement and optimism we have about the possibility of raising the minimum wage,” several said.
But in the meantime, our eyes are opening. This is not a simple issue for either businesses or service providers. The wider impacts should get a full exploration before positions solidify or a yea/nay view is set. This issue will grow on you.
Taking a Moment to Honor Those Serving People with Mental IllnessesOctober 14, 2013
It was an evening to recognize shared challenges and the progress made in community attitudes to mental illness. I had the pleasure of joining the National Alliance on Mental Illness (better known as NAMI) Eastside as it hosted an awards event in our Rainier Room last week.
This wasn’t just any professional gathering, however. Yes, there were community leaders, such as Shoreline’s Mayor Keith McGlashan and Redmond City Council Member (and Together Center Chair) Hank Myers. But a round-robin of introductions showed how significant and personal the event was for most.
Parents of young adults told the story of how their children were doing right now. Whether thriving or currently off their medications and homeless, each parent shared how critical it was to have discovered NAMI and talked to Executive Director Barb Thompson. Before, they had felt alone and hopeless. Filled with new information and supports, they were better able to help their son or daughter and themselves. Most importantly, they weren’t alone. Couples who had walked this path looked at each other knowingly.
Mike (pictured) and Susan Rynas received a lifetime achievement award from Washington State NAMI for their work in launching NAMI Eastside. They brought the young program to Together Center a decade or so. Since then, NAMI has moved into larger digs on campus two times as they have grown their programs, trainings, and support groups.
Also receiving an award was the Shoreline Police (operated by the King County Sheriff’s Office) for the new RADAR program, which enables police to build relationships with individuals who have mental illnesses which may bring them into conflicts in the future. This voluntary pilot program allows those affected by illnesses to get to know police, and for police to better understand who has special needs.
It is not obvious who has a mental illness, of course, or who has some connection. One of those getting a laugh was Mayor McGlashan. Due his mother’s job, he “practically grew up in Western State Hospital. I did Friday movie night there for years.”
It’s a small world, and we all touch someone with mental illness. It’s great to know we have leaders like Mike and Susan Rynas, the Shoreline Police Department and NAMI Eastside to help people with mental illnesses, their families and our communities.
Be like MacGyverAugust 28, 2013
The Reverend Bill Kirlin-Hackett, Director of the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, was strategizing during a breakout session at this week’s Shelter and Housing Summit, hosted by Eastside Human Service Forum. “We need to be like him.”
For those with only a vague idea of who this is, MacGyver was the hero of a TV show that ran for seven seasons beginning in 1985. The show followed the adventures of secret agent, Angus MacGyver, who worked as a trouble shooter for a fictional US agency. Famously, he solved complex problems with everyday materials he found at hand, especially his ever-present duct tape and Swiss Army knife.
“We need to be like MacGyver,” Bill explained. “We need to stop trying to fit reality to our flow charts. We need to use what we have to find solutions for problems.”
Winter shelter was the topic at our table. Short-term: where can we locate a winter shelter for men (women will go again to The Sophia Way)? Longer-term: how can we create a year-round shelter to meet the needs of Eastside residents without housing? How can we move from emergency management to a more strategic re-housing response?
Alison Eisinger, Executive Director, Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH), agreed with Bill. “We don’t need to do any more problem identification,” she noted. “We have done that work. Everyone knows the issues (such as zoning or fire codes or location issues). These issues are not actual barriers. We need to start focusing our energies now on problem solving.”
The take-away from the summit was for those of us in the choir to bring someone new to the next discussion. Let me know if you want to be at the table. Join us as we move toward action. You, too, can be like MacGyver.
In Healthcare: It’s PersonalAugust 15, 2013
Things get personal very quickly in health and human services.
Together Center agencies were invited to celebrate National Health Center Week by HealthPoint’s CEO Tom Trompeter. We were joined by State Representatives Ross Hunter and Cyrus Habib at the medical clinic.
“When I was being treated at Fred Hutchinson, I saw someone pick up a prescription. He was told the cost was $700,” Rep. Hunter said. “Clearly the man had no idea where he would get the $700, but if you are being treated at Fred Hutchinson you know if you do not pay the cost, you will die.”
Both Reps. Hunter and Habib have been impacted by cancer, and both noted they have enjoyed the benefits of a good insurance program.
Not all do, and the impacts can be devastating. Over 50% of bankruptcies nationwide are attributed to the impact of healthcare costs, Tom Trompeter said. He noted: we are each of us probably three degrees of separation from someone who has been impacted in this fashion by medical costs. (For each of us: it’s personal.)
With the changing healthcare rules, more people will be covered by insurance. In order to meet growing needs, HealthPoint is adding 8 exam rooms at Together Center and two additional dental chairs.
Rep. Habib noted something else important: healthcare services are integrated with other services on Together Center’s campus. “We are probably 20 years ahead in Redmond. Healthcare doesn’t happen in a vacuum. People may not have someone noticing they need treatment if they don’t have a home. They won’t stay healthy without appropriate nutrition. These things all relate. At Together Center, the services are all here.”
A Diverse Community Comes TogetherJuly 30, 2013
This weekend I attended the opening of Sammamish Landing, a park developed along Lake Sammamish by the City of Sammamish with the participation of Redmond, King County and a private donor. As I have at previous events, I was struck by the diversity of our population.
This should no longer surprise us, of course. Microsoft alone brings people to the area from Denmark, India, Brazil, China and Mexico, just to name a few countries.
The data we use day-to-day at Together Center also reflects what we see.
- East King County has a greater percentage of immigrants and refugees than the city of Seattle.
- Almost a third of Bellevue residents speak a language other than English at home.
- Half of those tapping services at HealthPoint medical clinic on our campus have a language barrier.
In response we work to ensure that everyone can get to the services they need. For example, the cultural navigator program we worked to launch (coordinated by Chinese Information & Service Center) helped 1,900 people in 2012 with information and assistance.
An e-mail arrived today that resonated along these lines: Fiesta de voluntarios en Idylwood park! the notice promoted in Spanish. Come be part of a work party to upgrade the park.
It’s a reminder that the Eastside is made up of people, and people have similarities in key ways. No matter their ethnicity, people want to pitch in and build the community. (Indeed, on Together Center’s Board of Directors are immigrants from Great Britain and Bangladesh.) People speaking other languages, no surprise, need to tap the same health and human services as everyone else. And hurray! People from around the globe want to gather, celebrate community, and party together!
Shared Spaces: A Continuing EducationJune 12, 2013
Shared Space and Shared Services. Those are the current terms.
I had only recently learned to use “multi-tenant nonprofit center,” as in Together Center is one of the first multi-tenant nonprofit centers in the country.
That is now old news, apparently. That the term for our model is still changing reflects the fact that despite our Center being over 20 years old, a “one-stop nonprofit hub” (our other descriptor) is still a vibrant, innovative concept. The professional dictionary is catching up to the work done many years ago by Together Center founders who were one of the first in the nation to gather multiple human service agencies under one roof (or three, as the case may be).
Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Nonprofit Shared Space and Services Conference in Denver on our rebranding process a couple years ago. One of the pleasures of this invitation was hearing cascades of approval of our name, logo and other features. It was great to get a national view. As I posted on Facebook: “You like us. You really like us!”
Among the many presentations I attended, one included academic research on the benefits and results of “shared spaces.” Diane Kaplan Vinokur of the University of Michigan confirmed that small agencies pay significantly less by leasing shared space than they do leasing elsewhere. Janet Boguslaw of Brandeis University noted, “Nonprofit centers offer a structural framework that moves organizations beyond their traditional silos to enable systems-level impact.”
Systems-level impact was the theme for many speakers. Shared spaces are not simply a benefit to nonprofits. They are a means for communities to transform themselves. Last year Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock signed Executive Order 138 to give strong endorsement for all city agencies to consider shared spaces as a tool to support nonprofits and further economic development.
I visited several high-impact hubs that benefit the environment, the arts and nonprofit capacities. I came home full of ideas to steal and reenergized to work toward the replication of an effective model for bettering our communities in multiple ways.
Leaders share their own stories of the services they neededMay 23, 2013
Last Fall when we chatted with Sammamish Chamber’s Deb Sogge, we were struck by her personal story of a time when her family really struggled. We were humbled by her willingness to share how Together Center had personally impacted her life.
We should not have been surprised.
We heard similar stories of troubled times at a gathering today of community leaders offering their assistance. They included spokespeople for major Eastside companies. Elected officials. Civic club leaders. Our own Board of Directors. Gathered for lunch based on their ability to draw other leaders, we heard:
“I lived in my car with a child.”
“After my divorce, I learned that just a little help can make a huge difference.”
“I was raised by a disabled single parent. We survived with welfare and free lunch programs.”
“I’ve used the youth counseling programs at YES, and HealthPoint’s medical services. I am a Together Center client.”
We were humbled once again by the willingness of people to share their stories. Their empathy toward those in need of human services was made all the clearer. They know well: all people need a little help now and then. With supports in place when they are needed, future leaders survive and thrive.
The Eastside MythMay 9, 2013
When I moved from Seattle to the Eastside in the late eighties, my friends rolled their eyes with urban sophistication. They mocked my move to what they considered to be the monotonously wealthy Eastside.
I quickly learned the falsity of this view. Sure, there was lots of evidence of money but working and volunteering in health and human services made crystal clear the diversity of people, even in the 80s.
More than 20 years later, with even greater density and variety of people, that myth of a uniformly well-off Eastside is even less true, yet the myth still sticks. And, moreover, it hurts.
Nearly 5% of families live in poverty in East King County. That’s more than 20,000 people. It hurts when our community assumes its needs are met. It hurts when funding moves elsewhere. Hunger feels as badly here as anywhere, as does homelessness or domestic violence.
This misconception has long been called The Eastside Myth by agency staffs. It is just one of a number of myths that keep us from creating the community we all want: healthy and thriving.
The Eastside Human Services Forum (www.eastsideforum.org), one of our partners, has chosen to take on the important work of combating such never-true myths, as well as growing the understanding of available services and those who use them. We look forward to sharing the results.
Hard to Believe: Higher Incomes Are Not a RefugeMay 1, 2013
“Domestic violence occurs in all communities, cultures and income levels. Our community is not immune to this problem,” Together Center’s newest Board Member and Redmond Assistant Police Chief Kristi Wilson said recently.
One of Together Center’s key messages is that human services are not just for the poor. People of all income levels utilize community supports such as those on the Together Center campus. Domestic violence, among other areas of need, impacts people of all cultures, all ethnicities and all income levels.
We recall one Eastside woman with two young kids who visited our door week after week in tears, unable to find a safe place to live despite abuse by a husband.
On another day, the ostensibly wealthy wife of a software professional sought help, terrified at any moment that her husband was stalking her. Days later: the same scenario with a different mother. For these women, refuge was found with a great deal of perseverance, but the odds are poor.
LIFEWIRE, which offers safe housing, tells us they must now turn away 34 of every 35 women who seek emergency refuge in shelter with them.
A well-known Group Health Cooperative study showed that domestic violence rate for women in King County is nearly twice that found in national studies (44% had experienced at least one incident). And interestingly, their study pool included primarily white, higher educated and employed women.
People like many of you and me. People who belong to Chambers of Commerce. People who operate businesses nearby.
It’s true. People of all income levels utilize health and human services, including help with domestic violence. With your support of community services, assistance may be available for everyone when they really need the help.
(For information and referral to community services, call 211. The LIFEWIRE hotline is 425-746-1940.)
Imagine Having to Discuss This in Another LanguageApril 24, 2013
Imagine having this talk with a stranger: “My mother is losing her sense of reality. She gets very angry. We need some help, but we don’t know where to start.”
This would be a difficult conversation for any of us.
Now, picture trying to have this conversation in a foreign language. Imagine trying to convey the specifics of this delicate situation and then to understand the response, follow directions to other agencies, and perhaps map out how to use the public transportation system to get there. You begin to get the idea of how difficult it is for many Eastside immigrants and refugees when, like the rest of us, they need some help.
Their dilemma has been an issue for human services staff for numbers of years. A coalition of interested groups launched ERIC, the Eastside Refugee and Immigrant Coalition, to develop strategies to assist. A directory in five languages and English, Helpful Connections, was first distributed to help.
A second major strategy was developed with Together Center’s assistance as the Eastside Cultural Navigator Program, operated by Chinese Information & Services Center. The center is one of two Eastside locations for this program. Crossroads Mini City Hall in Bellevue is the other. Navigators assist limited and non-English speaking individuals and families in accessing appropriate services and navigating through service systems. Bilingual and bicultural staff assist in Spanish and languages of India at the Center, and in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), and Russian at Crossroads and partner locations. (See photo: Spanish language navigator Alejandra Villarreal (r), with Russian language navigator Irina Chermeshnyuk.)
Thanks to this program, assistance is given by navigators for the most everyday of problems. How do I apply for a job? How do I enroll a child in school? Where can I learn more about nutrition? Help is also given for needs that many would want to speak about only privately. Preferably in one’s own language.
Warm for Winter Drive ImpressesFebruary 26, 2013
The donation of large boxes of hats, gloves and scarves to our Warm for Winter drive continued into the new year, which is fine by us. The need continues. Over 1,000 pieces were donated by on-campus agency staff members and friends in the community, in particular staff of Alexander, Morford & Woo.
Today, Barrett and Tom from Congregations for the Homeless picked up the last of several large boxes of hats, scarves and gloves. They were especially surprised to learn that most of the pieces are brand new and still in packaging. This made quite an impression.
Thank you, again, to those helping to make this drive a success.
Campus meeting brings good newsFebruary 21, 2013
Monthly the 18 agencies gather in a regular meeting with a variety of purposes, including sharing the latest news. This week’s Together Center Association meeting had an unusual amount of good news. Just a sampling:
Transition Academy informed us that 9 of 10 graduating this year from their program for developmentally disabled students have paid employment lined up.
Child Care Resources reported that they planned to be much busier on the campus in the coming year. They plan to double the child care providers they impact with training and other tools.
Friends of Youth’s Homeless Youth Service Center has increased the number of youth they shelter at night from 15 to 20 at least until April, thanks to a grant. That’s a big help to vulnerable young people in these cold months.
We are excited by all that our agencies can achieve in these economically difficult times.