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3HS council moves forwardThe group is one of five to set up shop in the Williams Center.
"Of the five public-service agencies scheduled to occupy space in the new Marge Williams Center, the least-known may be the Health, Housing and Human Services Council.But the agency's obscurity is a testimony to how efficiently it is functioning, some observers say.We rest easy with them because their work is well-documented, City Council member Merrill Robison said.The council, known as 3HS, is a quasi-volunteer agency that now handles virtually all of the city's social-welfare functions on an out-source basis.It was created in 1994 by an ordinance that designates it as the official body of the city empowered to act on all matters pertaining to the development and delivery of health, housing and human services within the city.The council's most visible official duty is to assemble requests for city funding from all social-service agencies, evaluate those requests and make recommendations to the city council.In the Winslow city days, every social service agency made its own spiel, Robison said. It was a lot of work for everyone to come together and sort them through.According to Karen Kushner, who was 3HS president from its inception until last month, the council was an outgrowth of a 1991 community round-table on social services.The question was how to keep up with the community's needs in some coordinated way, she said. The points of consensus that emerged were that there needs to be a coordinating entity independent of any of the agencies, and that there needs to be a foundation of financial support from the city.That effort led to the ordinance creating 3HS, Kushner said. Once in existence, it drafted and secured adoption of the Human Services Element of the city's comprehensive plan, which affirms the community's commitment to help those of its residents who are in need.The council's efforts were given a huge boost forward in early 2000, when it received a three-year, $300,000 grant from the Glaser Foundation, which was given to coordinate the delivery of youth services. With that grant, Jan Lambert was hired as staff co-ordinator of the youth-service project, and with an appropriation from the city, 3HS hired Lambert last fall as its executive director.Lambert's immediate priorities are to continue a monthly director's forum for the island's eight youth-services agencies, to put together an inventory of agency services and who is being served, and to generate funds to take care of the agencies' program and administrative-space needs.Because most agencies have a youth-service function, Lambert said that the senior center is the only social-service agency on the island that is not involved in the monthly forums on a formal basis, but that it is often included.Youth issues have a high priority because of special circumstances on Bainbridge Island, Lambert said.In many cases, one or both parents is working off the island, which means the young people have a lot of unsupervised time, she said. The organized activities for them are downtown, but transportation is a problem.The council took an active role in the liveaboard issue.When the city proposed an ordinance to do away with the liveaboard community, the council took notice, and pointed out to the city that this was also an affordable-housing issue, Kushner said.According to Robison, 3HS's role in the issue was meaningful.They advised the city as proponents for the liveaboards, he said.That involvement was one of the factors leading to formation of a mayoral task force on the liveaboard community, which in turn led to creation of the Harbor Commission. That commission has recently proposed a management plan for Eagle Harbor that sanctions the liveaboard community.Kushner retired as council president in mid-March. New council president is Elaine vonRosenstiel, a former health-care administrator and school board member.The council helps the city have difficult discussions about human-service issues, she said. It reflects the tradition of significant substantive volunteerism in this community. "