Human Services Element is out

"A high school student can’t be on the debate team because he can’t afford the overnight trips and is embarrassed to ask for money. A fifth-grader goes home to an empty house every afternoon because her mother works off-island to support them. It doesn’t matter that mom can’t afford after school fees for sports or dance lessons, because the student has no transportation to and from home, anyway.A new mom wants to work part-time, but can’t find child care for her three-month-old son.How can Bainbridge Island help these community members?Developing a comprehensive system of social services to take care of islanders’ needs is the goal of the Human Services Element (HSE) draft going before the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission Oct. 14, for inclusion in the island’s Comprehensive Plan. “The purpose of the Human Services Element is to create a system to be comprehensive and responsive to whatever happens in the future,” said its principal author, islander Judy Hartstone. “And I think that is the whole point of the comp plan, to develop structures as growth happens so we won’t be playing catch-up. “This (Human Services element) creates some structures that are flexible enough to respond to whatever human service needs arise from the growth of our population.”The draft addresses how social services will be developed and administered to the island’s growing community. The approach is to use providers’ and community resources in the most effective way by sharing information, reducing duplication, and jointly identifying and meeting needs where services are insufficient.If infant care facilities are lacking, the draft HSE says, social service providers and concerned citizens can work together to fill that need. If public transportation facilities do not reach the non-drivers on the island, a coalition of agencies can work out a plan to ease the situation.The element uses the the city’s volunteer advisory group – the Health, Housing, and Human Services Council (HHHS) – as a coordinating body while agencies continue to function independently, as they do now. HHHS would provide a forum for coordinating activities and services that more than one agency provides.They would create a pool of information from providers and make it available to all contributing agencies for faster and more efficient action for people with needs. HHHS would continue, as they do now, to prioritize the annual allocation of the city’s general fund money to nonprofit human service agencies. Adoption of the plan would also give the all-volunteer council paid administrative support, which it has not had since its inception in 1993. HHHS would help existing agencies regularly assess their overall effectiveness for the island’s needs as the community grows and changes, looking at, for instance, the adequacy of child care for working parents or public transportation for non-driving youth and seniors.The draft sets out seven “goals,” or sections, with specific policies for implementing each one. They specify the direction, limits and financial obligations of HHHS as the implementing body. The draft element is the result of 17 months of information-gathering, evaluating, and writing, said Hartstone, whom the city hired as a consultant for the task. She and an advisory committee began in June 1998 by assessing what services exist and what the community wants for the future. They took information from providers of services, service recipients, public and private organizations and community members in general.Hartstone will present the document to the planning commission in a public study session at 7 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Bainbridge Commons. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 4.Copies of the Human Services Element draft are available to the public at the planning department."

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