FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 21, 2014
SIMITIAN URGES SOCIAL SERVICES AGENCY TO “TAKE OUR SHOW ON THE ROAD”
SAN JOSE – Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian this week asked the County administration to work with nonprofit partners in the North County area to open satellite offices for the County’s Social Services Agency. By “taking our show on the road,” Simitian hopes the Agency can make it easier for more County residents to access vital services.
Earlier this year, Simitian helped secure a new North County office for the Social Services Agency in Mountain View, after it lost the lease on its previous location there. Simitian notes that; “While having an office close to our clients is tremendously helpful, it still presents challenges for people without reliable, affordable transportation.”
Simitian’s latest proposal would send Social Services staff to the offices of North County nonprofits for one or two days per week, a practice sometimes called “co-location,” on a trial basis. Likely partners include organizations that are already providing safety-net services that complement County-run programs.
“These programs serve the County’s most vulnerable residents,” said Simitian. “Where it’s possible, I’d like us to go to them, instead of asking all of them to come to us, which is sometimes a lot to ask of those with the least resources.”
Simitian says, “In many ways, this is a lot like the Sidewalk Office Hours I hold throughout my district. Accessibility is key. And frankly, I think we all learn a lot when we get out of the office.”
The satellite office proposal has already drawn positive interest from some community nonprofits in early conversations.
“At our offices, we’re already seeing clients that receive or qualify for County-administered benefits like CalFresh or CalWorks,” said Mila Zelkha of Palo Alto-based InnVision Shelter Network. “It just makes good sense to put as many services as possible in one place.”
Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto of West Valley Community Services concurs. “We have clients who are juggling work, childcare, and limited transportation access,” said Nakano-Matsumoto. “Right now, we have to tell them to go to another office in another city to access County programs. A one-stop shopping approach would help them tremendously.”
Marie Bernard of Sunnyvale Community Services sees benefits beyond time and travel. “Having County staff and our staff share space helps us all do our jobs better,” said Bernard. “We learn a lot about how to connect people to the right programs and services more quickly. It’s an improvement for everyone involved, from the client to the County.”
During the County Social Service Agency’s transition to its new Mountain View location earlier this year, Agency staff were temporarily housed in the offices of North County nonprofits. In Simitian’s view, “It worked well for the County, the nonprofits, and our constituents. It was a winner all around.”
In a letter this week (below), Simitian asked County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith and Social Services Director Bruce Wagstaff to take the administrative steps needed to begin a co-location trial in the North County. He hopes to see implementation begin by this fall.
“The County has built strong partnerships with local nonprofits, and this would take those partnerships and our services to the next level,” said Simitian. “We’ll serve more clients, more easily, and more effectively.”
July 21, 2014
Dr. Jeff Smith
County Executive Officer
70 West Hedding Street, 11th Floor
San Jose, CA 95110
Mr. Bruce Wagstaff
Social Services Agency Director
333 W. Julian Street, 5th Floor
San Jose, CA 95110
Re: North County Social Services
Let me begin by thanking you both once again for your help in maintaining a North County Social Services Office, now functioning in its new location. As we previously discussed, the North County Office and the North County location are key to serving our clients in this part of the County. That being said, I'd like to ask for your help doing an even better job of reaching out to the folks we serve in the Fifth District.
In recent weeks, I've had a series of discussions with our nonprofit colleagues in the North County about the possibility of County Social Services staff serving our clients on-site at various locations where we have North County social service partners. Community-based organizations participating in the Emergency Assistance Network are certainly likely partners, but I'm inclined to think there are other nonprofits which might be willing and able to host County staff on an occasional basis as well.
What I have in mind is the possibility of having County Social Services staff on-site for a day or two a week at three to six nonprofit locations in the Fifth Supervisorial District. I believe the term of art for such an approach is “co-location,” although colloquially I simply call them “satellite offices” or just “taking our show on the road.” I believe such an approach offers three important benefits:
• First, I believe we will be able to serve more clients if we go to them, rather than expect all of them to come to us. Any single location will by definition not be convenient for some significant number of clients. By taking our show on the road, I believe we will increase the number of folks we assist;
• Second, the use of satellite locations will undeniably be more convenient and less expensive for many of our clients, particularly those who lack affordable and reliable transportation; and,
• Third, I think we will provide better services that more fully and more appropriately fit our clients if we have the opportunity to partner and package services with community-based nonprofits already assisting the same individuals. The fundamental premise of "wraparound services" is that each client’s circumstances and needs are unique, and that we serve them best when we are able to tailor a complete range and package of services that fit the client. Clearly, our chances of realizing that goal are enhanced when both service providers (i.e., the County and the nonprofit) are working collaboratively in the same place at the same time.
In sum, and in short: I believe this approach will allow us to serve more people more effectively and more easily for our clients.
I appreciate the interest and enthusiasm you both have shown in our preliminary conversations. I'd like to ask that we now move forward to implement such an approach on a trial basis in the North County. Based on our preliminary conversations, I would hope and I would ask that we could begin implementing such an approach early this fall (by which I mean late September or early October).
I'm hoping all this can be done administratively, but if you feel that a formal referral to and through our Board is required or would simply be helpful, I would of course be happy to follow-up in that way. Thanks again for your assistance. I think it opens up some exciting possibilities to take our service to the next level.
S. Joseph Simitian
County Supervisor, Fifth District