SEQUIM — The city of Sequim looks to shift and expand its funding for human services for its proposed 2019 budget.
City staff held a public workshop Nov. 14 at the Sequim Civic Center where community members gave input on six areas for the city’s next funding cycle.
“We looked at our current human services funding and noticed there was a lot of gaps and overlap in the services being provided,” City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said at the workshop.
“We looked at that as a way in which to come back together and say, ‘We need to go back and re-evaluate.’ ”
City officials had met with about 50 stakeholders and human services providers in the Sequim area to identify gaps and problems in the community and suggest solutions for them on Oct. 30.
During that meeting, stakeholders agreed on six areas in the community where they felt there were gaps in human services: physical health, mental health, food insecurity, substance use disorder and sheltering (a two-part issue) within Sequim city limits.
In an interview, Nelson-Gross said there has been some duplicated efforts toward human services in the area — such as multiple agencies providing mental health services — while there were gaps in service areas of sheltering and substance use disorder.
Throughout the past several years, the city of Sequim allocated about $75,000 each year from its general fund toward human services funding. It has provided funds to entities such as the Sequim unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and Shipley Center.
City officials plan to continue to fund these two entities in the future, but the Boys and Girls Clubs unit and Shipley Center will not be included in the $75,000 allocated to human services contracts for the next funding cycle.
“We’re enlarging the amount for more focused human services,” Nelson-Gross said.
At the Nov. 14 workshop, city officials asked community members to participate in a dot vote where he or she marked one or more of the six areas in human services they feel needs more funding. At the Oct. 30 meeting, stakeholders and human service providers also voted on the areas they felt needed more funding.
City staff plan to take vote results from both the Nov. 14 and Oct. 30 meetings to the City Council on Monday, when it meets at the Sequim Civic Center, 152 W. Cedar St., and make recommendations to the council.
Request for proposals will go out to human service agencies in the region in December. In January of 2019 requests for proposals will go out to service providers.
Human service providers have suggested solutions to each of the six areas of service gaps in the community to city staff. Some are to create better navigation systems for accessing physical and mental health providers and better access to nutritional food via a mobile food and educational unit with a navigation team to provide access to better resources.
For substance use disorders, a one-stop-shop, storefront center open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, was suggested as a solution, as well as providing resources available for pre- and post-treatment. A phase two of this type of project could include a focus on prevention and open door policy for relapses.
Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said this type of space could be somewhere in Sequim’s downtown core, in the commercial corridor of the city.
“These are big visions and they can be tailored as things change,” Bush said.
“This will be at least a three-year funding cycle and as we go down that road years two years from now, things will be different than they are right now.”
Solutions for sheltering were split into two parts. One part focused on creating a campus-style center, potentially using an existing building that could incorporate job training, education and employment. A second part included anything beyond physical sheltering, such a social services hub for support.
“We’re trying to cast a vision out there for what we’d like to see,” Bush said at the November workshop.
“The reality is we’re not going to realize all of those in the first year. The city’s funding is a piece of that, but in reality we’re going to need to put more into it to leverage more resources.”
The city of Sequim’s available funding for human services is not intended to be a limitation to those solutions, Nelson- Gross added — which is why city officials are encouraging service agencies to work together when bidding on requests for proposals.
Doc Robinson, executive director of Serenity House of Clallam County, said during public comments Nov. 14 that addressing food insecurity is a big issue in the area.
“We have a lot of people coming [to Serenity House] for dinner and moving on to wherever they’re living,” he said. “Food insecurity is a driving issue on our Peninsula.”
He said Serenity House also has seen a rise in senior citizens who are evicted from his or her retirements home and it also is addressing homeless youth in the area “for the first time in a long time” with youth that are sleeping outside their home and are not in a safe or stable environment.
“We are looking for providers to collaborate with one another to avoid the duplication of efforts we’ve seen in the past and to identify those areas that might not be met,” Nelson-Gross said.