Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What are human services?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

AtWork! team-Client Production workers Grant Nelson,Chris Buettner, Tor Peterson, Robert Boyce with Supervisor Martin LopezToday we celebrated outstanding contributions to human services at the Alliance of Eastside Agencies annual awards luncheon (learn more at  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.


Minimum wage: even for poverty workers, it’s not simple

Tuesday, January 14th, 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.

Imagine Having to Discuss This in Another Language

Wednesday, April 24th, 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.

Members of the Cultural Navigator Program

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.

Learn more…

Together Center celebrates 20 years, 20 Heroes

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Together Center will celebrate its 20th anniversary on September 24, from 3 pm to 6 pm.  At 4 pm, a short program will be held, and 20 heroes of the organization will be honored.  These include the following essential volunteers and partners.  Who will be the next 20 heroes?

  1. Founder – J. Howard Finck
  2. Builder – John Spangenberg
  3. Cornerstone Leadership – W.J. (Bill) Finnegan
  4. Board Roof Wrangler – Bruce Henderson
  5. Finance Partner – Elizabeth Marx, US Bank and Charter Bank
  6. Property Care – Lynn Lyons, Ray Borga, Anne Heartsong
  7. Critical Funding Ambassador – Doreen Marchione, Hopelink CEO Emeritus
  8. Mentor – Ron Sher
  9. Vendors Extraordinaire – The Froggets, Lock Tech,  Richard Roberts, PLC Insurance, and Lisa St. Antoine, Print West
  10. Champion – Judy Pigott
  11. Foundation Partner – Bonnie McEachern, DV & Ida McEachern Foundation
  12. Business Leadership – Jim Stanton, Microsoft
  13. Volunteer  Teams – Christina Henning, Redmond Town Center, and Eastside Catholic School Men’s Soccer Team
  14. Long-Time Sponsors– Sam Alexander, Alexander, Morford & Woo, and Bruce Sult, Falco & Sult, Rick & Mary Forster, Rainier Welding, Keith Brewe, Redmond General Insurance Agency (RGIA)
  15. Emcee & Diversity Partner – Kevin Henry, City of Bellevue
  16. Cultural Navigation – Alaric Bien, Chinese Information & Service Center
  17. Past Board Champions – Linda Atkins, Davis Wright Tremaine, Debbie Wilkinson, HealthPoint, Holly Plackett , US Bank, retired, and Patti Skelton-McGougan, Youth Eastside Services
  18. Volunteer Fair Community– Lynn Terpstra and Karen True, Crossroads Bellevue
  19. Community Partner – Debbie Lacy, Eastside Human Services Forum & ERIC
  20. Anytime, Anywhere Help – Darlene Connor, Friends of Youth, Jon Griffus, Friends of Youth, Scott Milne, Hopelink and Barb Thompson, National Alliance on Mental Illness Eastside