Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

How are the Services I need funded?

Friday, July 7th, 2017

I recently wrote a column for the Redmond Reporter ( 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 Other

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

kathy-lambert-renee-zimmerman-and-lauren-thomasVery possibly you go to a lot of fundraising breakfasts and lunches.

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 ( and I sit on the Working Group of the Eastside Human Services Forum and its marketing committee (, 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.

Beyond Colocation – Doing More for People Seeking Help

Monday, June 29th, 2015

scrabble_letters_185280Earlier 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 Homelessness

Monday, May 4th, 2015

puzzle - paid - free digital download“Redmond is attracting so many homeless people now.”

“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!

Tuesday, February 3rd, 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

I’m retiring. How do I find a volunteer role?

Monday, August 18th, 2014

birdhouse kidsIt’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: Another online tool that can be customized by location is

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 2-1-1

Monday, April 28th, 2014


211 -for blogCivic club leader in audience:  “Wow, thanks for your speech. I am going to send a couple of people to Together Center to get some help.”

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

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.

Taking a Moment to Honor Those Serving People with Mental Illnesses

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Mike Rynas with award 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 MacGyver

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Rev.-Bill-Kirlin-Hackett “We need to be more like MacGyver.”

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 Personal

Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Pam Mauk, Ross Hunter, Cyrus Habib and Tom Trompeter

Pam Mauk, Ross Hunter, Cyrus Habib and Tom Trompeter

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.”