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.