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DSHS’s new mobile services van to visit Vashon Wednesday

Representatives from the Department of Social & Health Services will visit Vashon Wednesday, Sept. 8, in an effort to make it easier for low-income Islanders to receive government assistance.

This summer the department launched two community service offices — customized trucks that serve as fully functioning Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS) offices. One of these trucks and three DSHS staff members are visiting Vashon, enabling people to apply for basic food, cash and medical benefits without leaving the Island.

“There is no office on the Island that can do what this van will,” said Yvonne Pitrof, the director of the Vashon-Maury Community Food Bank.

Sometimes the process of applying for benefits can take weeks, Pitrof said, and this van, staffed and equipped like a typical DSHS office, should speed the process considerably.

People do not need appointments, but they do need documentation of their address, income, rent or mortgage. With the appropriate documentation, people can often be approved for benefits the same day, said to John McGill, a DSHS mobile van coordinator.

Some may not be certain if they are eligible for benefits, McGill, said, but that should not deter them from checking. “We encourage everyone to come in,” he said.

The income eligibility levels in some of the state’s aid programs have increased, McGill noted, and people may not realize they are eligible for assistance.

“We’d love to speak to people and update them on the changes,” he said.

Pitrof also encouraged people to apply or find out if they are eligible and to use government benefits and Island services together. People should not use the food stamps (now called EBT cards) or the food bank, but both.

“Use them collaboratively,” she urged. “They work better that way. Neither one is perfect. It’s a combination of resources that will help you a lot.”

The mobile services are new, so Islanders have little notice the van will be here. Pitrof hopes to schedule another day; McGill said that will happen.

“We understand the barriers that many of our clients face regarding the transportation to and from Vashon Island,” he said.

The mobile community services office will be on Vashon from 11 a.m. until mid-afternoon at the food bank and then at the farmers market until 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8.

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