The mission of Community Action of Skagit County is to help people improve their lives through education, support, and direct assistance while advocating for just and equitable communities. Community Action of Skagit County is the primary provider of comprehensive human services to low-income and under-resourced individuals and families in Skagit County, supporting nearly 20 core services within eight collective impact areas: Family Stability, Housing, Financial Stability, Employment, Food and Nutrition, Education and Literacy, Health, and Volunteerism and Community Engagement.
Examples of some of our funding opportunities within these impact area include:
EAST COUNTY RESOURCE CENTER AND CONCRETE COMMUNITY CENTER
The East County Resource Center was developed specifically to respond to the needs of community members who could not otherwise access services. The East County Resource Center is located in Concrete, which is located 35 miles from Mount Vernon. The East County Resource Center serves rural, often isolated communities, including Rockport and Marblemount, which are 51 miles east of Mount Vernon.
The East County Resource Center
Skagit County owns The East County Resource Center and Concrete Community Center, facilities managed and operated by Community Action. The East County Resource Center is the central hub for services for Eastern Skagit County residents. The center provides the following Community Action of Skagit County services: critical needs, energy assistance, veterans’ services, access to food, gas and transit vouchers, financial health workshops, and GED classes. Community Action of Skagit County also offers a daily hot meal program providing lunch daily, Monday through Friday, runs the local thrift shop and the Fresh Start Kitchen culinary arts training program.
Along with these Community Action provided services, the East County Resource Center also provides access to many county services including commissioner services, accepts property tax payments, records searches, voter and election information and food handler’s permits.
Our East County Resource Center works alongside the Skagit Food Distribution Center to provide older adults experiencing food insecurity with hot meals include residents of Concrete, Rockport, Marblemount, and other neighboring rural communities with sparse other social services. In FY 2020, the East County Resource Center served 1,206 residents; served 5,826 meals to 408 people.
By providing hot meals for older adults experiencing food insecurity in geographically isolated rural Skagit County, the Concrete Community Center plays a critical role in reducing hunger within a population for whom services are otherwise unattainable. Food insecurity is a determinant of health and consequence of poverty. A primary barrier for community members in eastern Skagit County to access nutritious food is limited transportation. In response to this need, we provide gas and transit vouchers and deliver food directly to older adults with mobility challenges.
In addition, Community Action of Skagit County’s East County Resource Center serves as a convener of community groups and coordinates the Concrete Community Coalition, where local residents, people experiencing homelessness, and others can identify needs and local solutions.
Community Action’s Housing Program serves as Skagit County’s designated coordinated point of entry through which people experiencing homelessness or at imminent risk of homelessness can meet with someone to help them find secure shelter.
Services Offered through the Housing Program
Community Action’s Housing Program provides a comprehensive portfolio of services and resources to those experiencing homelessness or who are at imminent risk of experiencing homelessness.
Community Action is able to assist people through the following programs:
- Family Development Shelter, which provides immediate shelter housing to families with children
- Providing rental assistance
- Providing housing case management services
- Providing education and outreach to landlords and property management companies
- Facilitating eviction prevention
These services and resources are significantly more in demand during and following the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly as the COVID-19 eviction moratoriums are lifted.
Impact of the Housing Program
Community Action’s Family Development Center consists of 10 apartment units located in Mount Vernon, where eligible homeless families may temporarily stay at no cost. During the COVID-19 pandemic, families have been permitted extended stays, for an average of five to six months, compared to the 90-day limit imposed prior to the pandemic.
Each unit in the Family Development Center is provided with essential utilities, furnishings, and household items. Each year, Community Action’s Family Development Center provides more than 30 families with safe, temporary shelter and assists them with their plans for future independence. Community Action’s housing specialists work with each family to plan for the future, access resources, create a household budget and savings plan, and take the necessary first steps toward their permanent home.
In addition, individuals accessing rental assistance to help them maintain or obtain rental housing do so through a variety of supportive programs, such as Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, Social Services for Veteran Families, and HUD programs and Emergency Solutions Grant, among others. Our eviction prevention program for individuals at imminent risk of homelessness provides assistance for rental arrears and three months of future rent and utilities.
ROBERT M. GATES SKAGIT VETS CONNECT CENTER
Community Action of Skagit County’s Robert M. Gates Skagit Vets Connect Center is honored to serve veterans and their families with dignity, respect, and a commitment to excellence. Through this center, our team provides a variety of services to meet the immediate needs of veterans in our community.
Since 1992, Community Action has provided a variety of services to thousands of veterans through our Veteran’s Services program area. A generous gift from former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his wife, Becky, allowed us to open a new center designated exclusively for veterans in 2019. In 2020, one year after the Robert M. Gates Skagit Vets Connect Center’s opening, Community Action served 361 veterans in our community.
The Robert M. Gates Skagit Vets Connect Center provides the following services:
Veteran Assistance Funds are used to assist veterans during an emergency crisis. These funds provide emergency funding to eligible veterans and their dependents. The goal of this emergency financial assistance is to assist veterans through temporary hardships and include support for food, gas, and clothing; utilities with disconnect notice; mortgage payments, rent payments, and security deposits; and transportation assistance. Other VAF services include helping with discharge documents/DD-214, transitional housing master lease agreements, dental van services, case management, budgeting guidance, referrals, and other assistance as needed.
Supportive Services for Veteran Families assist veterans with access to various resources, such as identifying and securing housing, maintaining housing, case management and advocating during landlord disputes. This work is supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and promotes housing stability among significantly under-resourced veteran families that reside in or are transitioning to permanent housing.
In addition, Community Action of Skagit County’s partner services include:
- Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing serves veterans experiencing homelessness. This partnership between the Veterans Health Administration and the Housing Authority of Skagit County offers Section 8 vouchers and case management provided by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
- Veterans Document Support provides assistance to veterans for military medical record review, military personnel record review, Disability Benefits Administration award letter review, verification of service statements, and enrollment in VA healthcare and eBenefits.
- Disability Compensation and Pension Claims serves as a veteran’s advocate and liaison to assist with the VA benefit claims process. This service helps veterans determine their best options for a claim, assists with the claim tracking process, reviews additional VA requests for action, explains VA decision letters, and provides guidance on submitting decision reviews and appeals.
- Elderly & Disabled Veteran & Widow programs provide continuous relief through assistance for aid and attendance benefits, assistance for housebound benefits, and assistance to surviving spouses with burial, disability indemnity compensation, and widow pensions.
The Robert M. Gates Skagit Vets Connect Center staff also facilitates connection between veterans and the public and military benefits to which they are entitled, increasing stability in veterans’ lives and reducing obstacles to accessing the resources necessary for healthy, independent living.
SENIORS AND DISABLED CLIENT SERVICES PROGRAM
The overarching mission of Community Action’s Senior & Disabled Services Program is to leverage the support of community volunteers to empower seniors (ages 60+) and adults with disabilities to live independently in their homes.
Maintaining the ability to live independently at home empowers older adults and people with disabilities to represent themselves and their needs, maximize their autonomy, and achieve higher qualities of life and better health outcomes. However, limited mobility and limited availability of accessible transportation in Skagit County present significant challenges for low-income older and disabled adults who are wheelchair-bound to access the health care necessary to continue living independently.
How the Senior & Disabled Service Program Works
This essential program recruits and coordinates community volunteers to provide direct services for elderly and disabled adults to help our clients remain living independently in their own homes.
Among the services we provide are:
- Shopping and errands
- Transportation including via a wheelchair-accessible van
- Yard work
- Minor home repair
- Moving assistance
- Firewood provision
- Meal preparation
To qualify for these services, community members must be an older adult (age 60 or older) or a disabled adult unable to transport themselves, without anyone else to turn to such as family, friends, neighbors or members of a faith-based community, and without the income to pay a professional provider.
SKAGIT FOOD DISTRIBUTION CENTER (SFDC)
Community Action of Skagit County’s Skagit Food Distribution Center addresses the problem of food insecurity that affects Skagit County’s least resourced individuals and families. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for food has increased dramatically in Skagit County, with nearly 50% of our county’s population of 129,205 residents considered to be food insecure.
How the Skagit Food Distribution Center Works
Community Action of Skagit County’s Skagit County Food Distribution Center program implements the mass collection and distribution of food, coordinates with local food pantries that serve individuals and families experiencing food insecurity, and collaborates with local farmers and providers of culturally appropriate food.
Through the SFDC and with the support of local food banks and four hot meal programs, Community Action of Skagit County serves nearly 70,000 community members throughout our region annually.
The SFDC is the centralized food security hub and distributor of bulk items and farm fresh food in Skagit, Island, and Snohomish counties, providing critical food support to 19 local food banks and hot meal programs and accounting for as much as 80% of the food available at local food banks.
The SFDC receives food shipments from large-scale emergency food providers and local farmers and distributes the food to the area food banks, ensuring that safety, quantity, quality, and cultural standards are met. The SFDC and its coordinated food distributed network collect, organize, and distribute perishable and non-perishable food and goods to individual food banks that would otherwise be required to independently collect, transport, and store food in a fragmented fashion.
Community Action’s SFDC coordinates efforts to bring more food into the county for organizations that feed hungry families. Our staff and volunteers then distribute the food to the area food banks.
The SFDC also serves as a coordination hub for the Community Supplemental Food Program, which provides monthly food boxes to food insecure older adults. It also serves as a critical gathering point for anti-hunger coalitions, linking food pantries and school districts, supporting weekend backpacks for school children, hospitals, nutrition programs, gleaners, farmers and others interested in ending hunger.