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Sequim, WA Unifies Human Service Providers to Deliver over 1M Meals to its Homeless Population

Sequim, WA 98382, USA
The Atlas Community Team

Government Champion

Interim City Manager

Project Status

Operational since 2019

At a Glance

After discovering service gaps in human services provision, Sequim, WA unified multiple human services agencies to supply essential services to homeless individuals in need. This new model increased collaboration between agencies and resulted in 1M meals being distributed to the city's homeless population.

Problem Addressed

The town of Sequim, WA, has a population of just over 7,200. In 2017, city council members brought concerns about homelessness to city staff, leading Sequim to examine its human services funding and accountability more deeply. For years, the city had allocated $75,000 per year to human services, whose goal is to help people find stability, by providing food and shelter. The city had distributed the funds among several service providers, each performing different services.

After diving into the financials to see why services to address homelessness, panhandling, and mental illness weren’t doing enough, the city found that the annual $75,000 human services funding was not being distributed effectively. The companies picked were not the most successful at meeting the needs of the city’s homeless population, and with no collaboration between the various providers, there was an excess of some services provided and a lack of others.

Because these are very serious and consequential issues, the city gathered its staff to think of an innovative solution to drive the city in an equitable and inclusive direction.

The City of Sequim used/is using a collaborative service provider approach to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

After analysis of possible approaches to solving the city’s issues, city staff presented the city council with a plan to bring multiple agencies together to better address homelessness and mental health than the current system.

In 2018, the city hosted a Human Services Summit with 50 participants from service providers across the county. The Summit’s goal was to find new ways to address homelessness in the community while adhering to the city council’s guiding principles: Focus on outcomes and results rather than on the identity of the provider; Encourage provider collaboration to achieve the best value; Collaborate with all funding sources to maximize investments; Consider prioritizing funding for areas of greatest need. With participants gathered from various service providers, the city took the opportunity to try and encourage provider collaboration between the typically independent organizations.

After the Summit, the city issued a human services request for proposals that aligned with the council’s guiding principles and received one response. Nine local nongovernmental social service organizations had created the Sequim Health & Housing Collaborative (SHHC), and the council awarded it a three-year, $75,000/year contract.

The goals of SHHC centered around homelessness and focused on battling challenges like food insecurity, lack of shelter, substance abuse, and physical health, among others. The unified approach was proven successful after 2019, but the impacts of COVID in 2020 further increased the demand for services. Launching the HOPE Outreach Program in 2020, SHHC provided direct outreach to 832 residents: preventing 54 households from experiencing homelessness and providing 160 nights of emergency shelter for households directly affected by COVID-19. SHHC also increased the hours of outreach staff, facilitated mass food distributions, and implemented telemedicine services. In 2021, the organization established an office to better serve the city’s individuals and families.

Outcomes

  1. The city was able to ensure its city council’s guiding principles were followed by aligning them with the RFP
  2. Through partnering with SHHC, Sequim was able to better address the concerns of its citizens around homelessness
  3. The city’s human services funding resulted in greater outcomes through a combined service provider approach
  4. Sequim’s hosting of a summit with local service providers to brainstorm solutions led to valuable collaboration
  5. SHHC provided more than 1 million meals in 2020, double the number in 2019

Lessons Learned

  1. By acknowledging that the current system wasn't effective, and looking for innovative solutions, Sequim was able to establish a more effective system to achieve its goals.

Who Should Consider?

Cities looking to group non-governmental service providers into a collaborative entity to more effectively tackle issues.

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