Survey shows strong interest in human services campus

March 30, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

The proposed Issaquah human services campus could offer a range of services — healthcare, youth and family counseling, assistance to seniors — supporters said last week.

Issaquah stands a step closer to opening the campus, after a Redmond nonprofit organization released the results of a city-funded survey to gauge interest in a campus. Family Resource Center released the data March 22.

The center surveyed 50 service organizations; 25 responded and 14 respondents indicated interest in participating in the Issaquah campus. The interested organizations include HealthPoint, a network of nonprofit community clinics, the nonprofit Elder and Adult Day Health Services, and Outdoors for All, a nonprofit with a mission to provide outdoor recreation for people with disabilities.

Organizers and Issaquah elected officials envision the human services campus as a clearinghouse where people can pick up food donations, receive healthcare and find employment.

Former City Councilman John Rittenhouse — a longtime proponent of the campus who left the council in December and then joined the Family Resource Center board of directors — said the setting could resemble the center campus, where several organizations share campus space.

“The board has made it a priority to replicate the Family Resource Center model in other places,” he said last week.

The nonprofit pioneered the concept in Redmond 20 years ago. The center records more than 40,000 client visits each year.

Of the 14 affirmative responses to the survey, the center received two definite responses; six organizations expressed high interest and another six indicated possible interest in the Issaquah campus. The combined respondents require anywhere from 28,000 to 52,000 square feet to conduct operations.

Family Resource Center Executive Director Pam Mauk said other interested parties provide emergency services and help for people with developmental disabilities.

“We asked about the reason agencies want to participate,” she said. “While all could check multiple answers, and we assume pursuing a new or expanded location relates to real estate needs, we were interested to see that the answer with the most responses was, ‘We would like to participate in a one-stop human services campus.’”

The survey concludes the initial phase in a feasibility study to determine whether a human services campus could be sustained in Issaquah. City Council members OK’d the first step toward a campus in December, by agreeing to spend $35,000 in city money to complete the study. Officials used impact fee dollars paid by the developer of Talus to fund the study.

With the survey done, Mauk said the center “really wanted to dive into the study” and deliver the results to city officials. The study should be completed within four to five months.

The study represents the latest step in a yearslong process to establish the campus. Nonprofit, business and government leaders formed a group in 2006 to research the creation of a human services campus. City Council members included establishment of the campus among the goals they set for 2010.

The study will examine community needs, as well as potential locations for the human-services campus.

Retired Issaquah School District administrator Margaret Moore, another member of the Family Resource Center board, said the study would address issues such as transportation — a critical issue because organizers want the Issaquah campus to be accessible by mass transit.

The access issue will be handled alongside the most important questions the study aims to answer: where the campus should be located, and whether organizers should build a new facility or utilitze existing buildings. The study will also delve into how the Issaquah campus should be governed.

Rittenhouse said the project has gained momentum as service organizations and nonprofits became “confident that it’s a matter of when and not a matter of if” the human services campus opens.

“The campus is important to Issaquah because the services that are currently provided in the Issaquah area are pretty scattered,” he said.

TIMELINE

The push to open a human services campus in Issaquah started four years ago. Since then, community leaders and elected officials have embarked on a deliberate — some might say plodding — process to turn the campus from vision into reality. Look back at important dates in the effort:

Spring 2006 — Initial discussions begin about how the city can help Eastside Baby Corner, Issaquah Valley Community Services and other nonprofit organizations meet space needs.

May 2006 — Community leaders explore how to launch a campus where independent agencies with space and budget limitations can serve clients.

Fall 2006 — Organizers send a survey to 45 nonprofits; 15 agencies reported immediate or possible interest in the Issaquah campus. A facility between 21,000 and 24,000 square feet should meet users’ needs.

March 2007 — The city Economic Vitality Task Force endorses the human services campus concept for Issaquah.

August 2007 — Organizers vote to put the Issaquah campus under the legal umbrella of Family Resource Center.

September 2007 — Organizers meet with property owners, evaluate potential sites and prioritize opportunities.

October 2007 — Issaquah organizers and Family Resource Center leaders discuss a fiscal sponsorship. The draft agreement will be completed by June 2008.

June 2008 — City Council members earmark $1 million worth of impact fees paid by the developer of Talus to be used for the human services campus.

Winter 2009 — Almost 60 government, nonprofit and community leaders discuss how the Issaquah campus should be organized and serve clients.

January 2009 — Organizers compile a list of services deemed important by Issaquah School District nurses.

March 2009 — The vision for the campus changes as organizers integrate the results of surveys, leasing information and other data. The campus should encompass between 40,000 to 55,000 square feet to include the desired features.

April 2009 — Issaquah Human Services Commission recommends partnering with Family Resource Center to conduct a feasibility study for the Issaquah campus.

December 2009 — City Council allots $35,000 to Family Resource Center to conduct a feasibility study.

March 2010 — Family Resource Center releases the results of a survey of local nonprofits to gauge interest in the campus.

Sources: City of Issaquah, The Issaquah Press archives

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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