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Human services: Supply vs. demand in Federal Way

Federal Way received more than $1 million worth of funding requests for human services this budget cycle — but only $430,000 is expected to be available.

On Oct. 21, the Federal Way City Council indicated human services funding will not decrease, said human services manager Lynnette Hynden.

The economy and King County’s nearly $93 million 2009 budget shortfall, which will drastically affect human services funding countywide, are expected to force Federal Way to rely more heavily on local grass-roots programs and agencies, she said.

“We’re heading into some hard times,” Hynden said.

The city council accepted the Human Services Commission’s recommendation to provide funding for 37 of 61 submitted applications, which would support ground-level needs, she said. Hynden is thankful Federal Way is doing whatever it can to provide the same base level of funding it did during the last full budget cycle two years ago. The amount allocated is fair, Hynden said.

“Going into this fiscal year, we are glad we didn’t get cut,” she said.

The city council will not release its final 2009-2010 budget until December. City Manager Neal Beets promised the budget will be balanced.

Of the $430,000 slated for human services, 49 percent — $213,000 — will be dedicated to programs and agencies that offer basic emergency needs, Hynden said.

Many local and countywide human services programs depend on a combination of funding from their city, the state, King County and grants. The county and the state are major funders for several programs, Hynden said.

If the county and state are unable to spare funding for larger widespread human services programs and agencies, that leaves grass-roots groups to pick up the slack, she said. This worries Hynden.

“Federal Way is really dependent on being a part of a consortium of agencies vs. being reliant on our grass-roots agencies,” she said.

Grass-roots reliance

Help from organizations such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Theresa’s Catholic church is vital.

The international Society of St. Vincent de Paul has several chapters. Locally, the society offers a food bank, food and gas vouchers, rent and utilities assistance, among other things, to Federal Way and Northeast Tacoma residents. It operates on a budget of about $80,000, said Joseph Roni, president of the society’s conference of St. Theresa’s Parish.

Funding and food bank items primarily come from St. Theresa’s church parishioner contributions, said Virginia Roni, vice president of the conference. Additional money from the city allows the society to provide rent and utilities assistance, she said. Corporations and the international Society of St. Vincent de Paul also provide money.

The services offered would not be possible without parishioner contributions and volunteer work, Roni said. Housing and utilities assistance specifically, would not be possible without city funding, she said.

“Sometimes it’s $250 we have to give and that keeps the power on,” Roni said.

Society members deliver food bank items to those in need at their homes, and often learn these people require more than just groceries, she said.

“Often we found out, oh they don’t have any gas to go to work or their medical appointment,” Roni said.

Last year, the program assisted 291 families, according to information provided by Joseph Roni. Of those, 85 families were helped with money provided by the city; housing assistance was provided to 49 families and 36 families got help paying for utilities, according to the document.

The burden to provide local services is expected to be seen even by those not seeking assistance, Hynden said.

“Residents here are probably going to see more and more food drives and requests to support with whatever help they can give,” she said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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