Arlington Community Resource Center operators opt out; loss in grant funding cited

Volunteers of America tentatively agrees to run center that helps people in crisis

ARLINGTON – The organization behind the Arlington Community Resource Center told city officials Tuesday that they will no longer run the center, effective Feb. 6.

Lutheran Community Services Northwest cited significant loss in grant funding as the reason.

It appears though that there won’t be any gaps in services the center offers to help families in need move from crisis to self-sufficiency.

Volunteers of America Western Washington has a tentative agreement to assume operations of the center starting Feb. 9, said city officials, who met with VOA representatives later that day.

“They want to have a continuity of operations, and their intent is to use the same staff that the center had, and work with them,” Mayor Barb Tolbert said.

Tolbert and Heather Logan, who works under contract with the city on health and human services issues, said they didn’t have to sell the idea to VOA. They were ready to step in, and planned to meet with resource staff this week.

VOA runs a Family Resource Center in Sultan, they’re building a new center in the Lynnwood-Edmonds area, and they are the backbone organization for food banks countywide, Tolbert said. They know how to provide basic needs, but they’re eager to better understand how services and programs are used in the Arlington area.

The program housed at the Stillaguamish Senior Center is one of four family support centers countywide. The Arlington center served as a hub providing housing, employment, food and transportation support to families after the Oso slide in 2014, but it has taken on a broader role addressing homelessness, addiction and mental illness in connection with the police’s embedded social worker program.

The center was funded initially by Snohomish County, Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation and LCS.

LCS has supported neighbors in need in north county for five years, serving 25,000 clients.

In 2019, staff at ACRC housed 77 families, including 93 adults and 70 children. They also assisted 60 other families in preventing losing their housing. Total participants served across all programs totaled 7,571 in 2019.

ACRC’s wrap-around services including housing, employment, utility payment assistance and more, has worked well with local organizations to get services to all with needs, city officials said.

“The symbiotic partnership between Arlington’s Community Outreach Team and the ACRC has been critical in our strategic response towards our community’s recent challenges with homelessness and the opioid epidemic,” Police Chief Jonathan Ventura said.

Arlington Fire Chief Dave Kraski said before the center existed, emergency service providers were without a local resource to provide less fortunate residents with basic needs.

“The ACRC fills a void in social services for citizens struggling to survive,” he said.

Tolbert had said earlier that she wanted center donors to know that a smooth transition and bringing on a new partner was a top priority to avoid any days of lost service.

Donors with concerns can contact the mayor at 360-403-3442 for updates.

During city budget discussions in December and prior to LCS’s announcement, City Councilmember Mike Hopson broached the idea of earmarking city funds annually to help support the center.

Tolbert agreed: “I believe that organization is doing more to support some of our street issues and some of the people falling through the cracks in our city than anybody else is. They struggle for funding.”

City finance director Kristin Garcia said the budget includes a line item for 2020 earmarking just over $19,000 toward the center.

By one account, LCS was subsidizing the center with about $180,000. A check of the county budget shows that its portion for funding all Family Support Centers stayed at $292,000 for 2020, same as last year.

County Human Services has not signed their grants with LCS this year, so they will be shifting that roughly $45,000 of funding over to VOA.

Tolbert, who served on LCS’s advisory board, said she was grateful for the four years that the group operated the center and helped get it on its feet as a hub for social services.

She thanked state Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan for her support as talks continued with VOA. Eslick was instrumental in bringing the family support center to her hometown which the organization runs. She also acknowledged Snohomish County Human Services and the Community Foundation of Snohomish County for helping connecting with VOA.