Agencies collaborate to better serve Island
July 26, 2011 · 12:27 PM
Vashon’s six leading social service agencies have begun working collaboratively on a range of issues — from homelessness to hunger — in an attempt to make the best use of limited resources and ensure the most pressing needs are met.
According to members of the Social Services Network, as they’re calling themselves, they began meeting nearly three years ago, working initially to establish trust and identify both overlaps and gaps. Now, they say, they’ve established a strong enough working relationship that they’re beginning to help each other apply for grants, match funds where needed and collaborate on some initial projects.
This fall, for instance, they hope to work together to offer dinners to people in need on Vashon six nights a week; currently, dinners are available three or four times a week. Ultimately, said Susan Tuller, the former administrator at Vashon Community Care and one of the members at large in the Social Services Network, the group hopes to see meals offered twice a day, seven days a week. They’d also like to see a community kitchen established on Vashon, she said.
By working collaboratively, the group also helped Vashon Youth & Family Services (VYFS) secure a $5,000 grant to prevent homelessness from Rotary’s district office. The various groups in the network matched the grant, providing, all told, $8,000 — funds that will be used to help a people teetering on the edge pay for utilities, get to a job interview, pay for rent or handle needed car repair, said Ken Maaz, executive director at VYFS.
“We’ll use that money as expeditiously as we can to prevent families from becoming homeless,” Maaz said.
The grant, Tuller said, is a perfect example of what the network can do. The Rotary required a match, she said, something members of the various organizations were willing to contribute to, even though the funds ultimately would go to a VYFS program.
The reason for a collaboration was simple, she added. “We saw this as a way to use our partnership to leverage more resources coming into our community,” she said.
Vashon’s social service agencies have attempted such collaboration in the past but were never able to get a working relationship off the ground, Tuller said. This time around, she said, it was different — in part because they’ve met enough times that they’ve established a deep amount of trust and mutual respect. Mounting needs on Vashon have also added to their sense of urgency and determination.
“It’s been very difficult to see the very real impact the downturn is continuing to have on our community,” Tuller said.
“To the extent that we can work together to stretch resources, it’s incumbent upon us to do that,” Maaz added.
The groups involved in the Network include VYFS, Vashon Community Care, the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, the Vashon Maury Com-munity Food Bank, Vashon HouseHold and the Vashon Senior Center. The heads of those organizations or one of their board members attend the network’s monthly meetings.
The group has identified several issues as the most pressing on Vashon, Maaz said, including the needs of the elderly, affordable housing, access to health care, availability of living-wage jobs and transportation.
Next week, the network will hold the third of its annual forums, where the public is invited to come together to discuss senior services on Vashon — including housing, transportation and elder abuse, Maaz said. John Deagen, an advocate with the Senior Information and Assistance Service at King County Senior Services, will be the featured speaker.
The network is not becoming its own nonprofit or a kind of mini-United Way, Tuller added. The point is to ensure every organization holds on to its own identity and mission, recognizing that each group has a better chance of fulfilling its mission if it works collaboratively with other agencies on Vashon.
“I think we have a better shot of addressing these issues working together rather than separately,” Maaz said.
The Social Services Network will hold a forum from 4 to 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, at Vashon Community Care. The needs of Vashon’s senior citizens will be discussed.