March 30, 2010
City should not own a human services campus
The idea of bringing human service nonprofit agencies together in one location to best serve the clients is not a new idea. It has been tried and proven successful at the Family Resource Center in Redmond.
There, a nonprofit group purchased an older strip mall and converted it to offices. There, you’ll find a medical-dental clinic for low-income families, a food bank, counseling, crisis line, childcare resources, sexual assault treatment, housing alliances and many other needed services.
Issaquah has some of these services, but not in one location. The Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank has a rent-free city building, although it hopes to buy next-door space to meet its growing needs. AtWork! provides employment and work training for adults with disabilities from its city-owned space. Friends of Youth Issaquah owns its buildings on Front Street North. Eastside Baby Corner uses donated space, but needs to find a new home with room to grow.
Issaquah has numerous other nonprofit agencies that cater to the needs of its residents, including language classes, financial assistance, help for disabled children, senior daycare — but they don’t all have office space here. Clients end up traveling throughout the Eastside to get the assistance they need.
The city of Issaquah has a big heart and has been excited about helping create a human services campus. As part of a development agreement, the city set aside $1 million from Talus for such a campus. The $35,000 the city spent for a study of the campus idea is bearing fruit, showing interest from many agencies.
But a big question remains: What should the city’s role be in a human services campus?
We like the success of the Family Resource Center — without city ownership. The city of Issaquah should stay out of property acquisition, management and operation of a campus. Use the $1 million to pave the way for permits, for a partial grant for construction and to supplement possible revisions to the city shuttle bus, if transportation is not already available when a site is selected.
Using the $1 million to leverage start-up costs is the city’s best bet to help Issaquah get a human services campus of its own.