This is the fifth in a series of columns focusing on topics previously selected by participants of the March 2019 Kingston Community Conversation. You can learn more about the Community Conversations by going to kingstoncares.org/events. The date for the 2020 Community Conversation has been set for April 4, at the Village Green Community Center. This month, we will be covering the topic of community health and social services.
At the 2019 Community Conversation, participants discussed the needs of individuals in Kingston who are living unsheltered and who experience food insecurity and marginalization. Existing social and health services in the area are currently delivered through a variety of agencies including: ShareNet, Fishline, Kitsap Area Agency on Aging, Peninsula Community Health Services, Kitsap Public Health District, Kitsap Mental Health Services, and Kingston Cares, all of which were invited to contribute to this article.
Participants recognized that because of the rapid growth happening in Kingston, many residents do not feel connected to their neighbors. Nor are residents as likely to notice the marginalized, unsheltered and vulnerable members of the community because they commute out of the area for work, shopping and services.
The area’s growth is also outpacing many systems and services. Incomes for many are not keeping up with the steadily increasing cost of housing. Service systems are stretched thin. Public transportation was identified as a major challenge for Kingston residents when they need to access social and health services that are only available in Poulsbo or Bremerton. Participants raised the question of whether agencies could offer regular office hours in Kingston for local outreach and advocacy.
Health and wellness topics included mental health and food insecurity. Kitsap Mental Health Services (KMHS) serves children and adults with serious mental illnesses, emotional disturbances, and co-occurring substance use disorders. A five day Crisis Triage Center for voluntary stabilization of individuals in crisis was recently opened in Bremerton. KMHS plans to open a new full-service outpatient treatment facility in Poulsbo this April, with multidisciplinary teams. If final funding is secured, KMHS will open a 72-unit permanent supported housing apartment complex in the Bremerton area Fall of 2022.
Sliding scale medical services are offered by Peninsula Community Health Services (PCHS), a community-based nonprofit organization, at their Kingston and Poulsbo clinics. Services are available to patients without regard for ability to pay. More information is available at pchsweb.org.
Kitsap Public Health District (KPHD) Community Health has several countywide programs including the Nurse-Family Partnership for first-time moms, HIV assistance, a mobile syringe exchange program, and programs to promote wellness for all residents. More information is available at kitsappublichealth.org.
Roundtable participants noted that unsheltered people seem to be increasingly visible on the streets of Kingston and are unwelcome by some people and businesses. “How to love the marginalized” was identified as a question that needs community-wide response. A participant noted that “homelessness and mental illness are not crimes. All people have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.” Suggested ways to help included befriending people who are unsheltered, checking on their wellness, and providing them with food gift cards and information about services.
Participants noted that food insecurity results from a combination of low incomes, disproportionate spending on other essentials such as housing and health care, and factors like dependence on grocery stores for their food.
Local food banks such as ShareNet and Kingston Food Bank provide food to local families in need. Food2GO operated by ShareNet and Food4Kids sponsored by Kingston Cares, S’Klallam Tribe, Rotary and Kiwanis distribute food to students on weekends, holidays and summer breaks. Free dinners are offered twice a month to all community members – on the second Friday of the month at the Village Green Community Center and the last Friday at Bayside Church.
Chuckwagon (Meals on Wheels) meals are available three days per week for senior citizens at the Village Green Community Center and through their home delivery program mealsonwheelskitsap.org/community-dining-mealsites.html. According to staff at ShareNet, the Kingston community needs services for the elderly that are local and go beyond what is currently available at the emergency level. Kitsap County Aging and Long Term Care Division currently holds office hours at Fishline in Poulsbo to provide needed advocacy, assistance and referral to North Kitsap senior citizens and is considering routine office hours in Kingston in the future.
A full community services report based on the 2019 Community Conversation is available at kingstoncares.org. Next month’s column will be based on the 2019 Community Conversation Transportation Roundtable discussion.
This article was contributed by Jane Mack and Ruth Westergaard, Community Services Committee, Kingston Citizens Advisory Council.