Heart Stories

Partnering with Families 
Written by Kim Orlander, Mental Health Ombuds

A young man with some severe mental health and developmental issues, along with his father, contacted our Mental Health Ombuds program for some assistance in getting better services through a local mental health agency.  The young man was reclusive, homeless, and needed his medications stabilized.

With his father’s persistence, and Ombuds help, this young man was able to get services from a mental health intensive outpatient program.  This support allowed this young man to stabilize his medications and get on a regular routine, which then empowered him to start attending his local YMCA and eventually housed in a subsidized studio apartment.

From Homeless to Housed: Stories from the First Stop
Written by Gina Danielson, Housing Resource Coordinator 

Paul*, 58, is a single man who had been homeless since October 1993. Occasionally he would stay at the Friendship House for a few months but for the most part he lived in his tent.   

This past fall, Paul had some medical issues for which he was hospitalized and his doctor told him that he would not live through one more winter in a tent.  Thankfully, at the same time, his name came up on the list for a room at Compass Health for which he had been on the waiting list for three years. 

Paul came to Community Action because he needed one-time assistance for the deposit and first month's rent.  In addition to receiving assistance, he worked with a case manager to develop a plan to be able to pay for his future rent.  

Currently, Paul remains housed with his health improving and receiving on-going services through Compass Health. *name has been changed. 

More and more people come to Community Action for one-time rental assistance, for which we network and try to find adequate, stable housing. Recently a gentleman became homeless after his aging parents, who he had been caring for, passed and he could no longer make rent. He was on a one-year waiting list to get into an apartment and living out of his truck, accepting food and invitations for showers whenever it was offered. He lived like this for ten months before an apartment became available. Due to his limited income, he needed assistance with the deposit and first month’s rent and now is in a stable living environment, where his rent is based on his income. 

Another example is a client came to us after being homeless for 10 years. He occasionally found shelter through his employer but it was not permanent, nor was it an ideal living situation. He came to Community Action in search of assistance in locating decent housing options for which we were able to connect him with an apartment that he can easily afford. 

From: Michael H
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2010 1:45 PM
To: Bill Henkel
Subject: Lou Hillman and Team

Dear Mr. Henkel,

We met briefly in Lou's office during your visit late last month. I wanted to send you an email that echoes what I expressed to you about my thoughts and observations concerning Lou and her team [up in East County]. (Click here to read the rest of the email.)


Project Homeless Connect - Sept. 1, 2010 
Written by Quinn Slayton, Skagit Volunteer Center 

The Volunteer Center at Community Action is proud to have participated in the first annual Project Homeless Connect on September 1, 2010.  Over 260 homeless families and individuals were connected to services that day.  The goal of Project Homeless Connect is not only to connect homeless community members to services, but also to connect the community to the issue of homelessness in an effort to raise awareness and ultimately to come up with solutions.  This goal came true for Brittany Reed, a high school senior who was one of the 115 volunteers who gave their time that day. During her orientation, Brittany was surprised that on any given night in Skagit County nearly 2,500 people are homeless, and she was saddened that nearly half of them are children.  Brittany was inspired to do something, and she decided to dedicate her senior project to helping homeless children.  On December 4, Brittany is hosting a Holiday Party at Sedro-Woolley High School for homeless children.  There will be food, fun activities, games, and gifts.  Brittany is currently seeking donations for the event because she believes, “we can use the help of our community to give a day of joy to the youth.”  The Volunteer Center hopes that Brittany’s leadership will create a ripple effect in the community to come up with more creative solutions for Skagit County’s homeless population. 

Mental Health Advocate
Written by Chuck Davis, Mental Health Ombuds

We had a client who presented early in 2010 with a sad story.  The client had a history of alcohol abuse and mental illness.  He had suffered terrific bodily injury due to things that happened to him while he was under the influence of alcohol.  Although he was living in a “clean and sober house” when we met him, the house was neither clean nor sober.  He was trying his best to maintain sobriety and was extremely frustrated with that living situation.  He had fairly recently been through the court and criminal justice system.  He told Ombuds he had received unfavorable treatment, rejection and neglect from a number of community “helping” agencies.  He stated that his mental health services were lacking and had set him up for failure.  Saddest of all, he was out of options, had nowhere to turn, and was thinking about going back to drinking.  He told Ombuds, “I might as well give up and stay drunk until I die, for all the good it does me to try to find real help.”

He found a Skagit County Community Action Agency flyer promising that their mental health Ombuds would do their best to assist him.  Shortly after his initial call, Ombuds had obtained a medical release form and was at work helping him.  Ombuds initiated complaints and grievances about his treatment through his mental health services agency and arranged several face-to-face meetings with that agency.  Ombuds subsequently promoted his interests through an intense grievance process with the North Sound Mental Health Administration, the region’s public mental health authority.

Ombuds empowered him to transfer his mental health treatment to a different provider agency that provided him proper mental health treatment.  Ombuds also worked on his behalf between the local housing authority and his new provider agency and found him a suitable home within three weeks.  The client is now committed to sobriety, has a very positive outlook, is volunteering at a community drop-in center and is working with an agency to find a job.  He recently stated, “This is the absolute best I have ever been!” 

Our mission here at Skagit County Community Action Agency is to foster and advocate for self-sufficiency among low-income people in Skagit County. The programs and services offered here at Community Action provide clients with the support and tools needed to significantly improve their situation.

A Story of Struggle and Hope

This story was submitted by Melissa Self who works in Maternity Support Services at Community Action: 

Earlier this year, I worked with a young first-time mom, Sara*, and her infant, Alex*.  The father had been sent to drug rehab for heroin addiction.  Sara and Alex were temporarily staying with friends with the expectation that she would move out once the Alex’s father was released from rehab. She had no friends other than the people she lives with, and although her family lived in a neighboring county, but they are not supportive as they have many issues of their own. In addition to receiving services through Community Action, Sara was also connected into WorkSource, and was receiving some support from her case worker at DSHS. She eventually got a part-time job and Alex was enrolled into childcare program.  Sara did not have a car so she walked all over town, pushing Alex in a stroller or used the bus for transportation.  I often still see her pushing Alex in the stroller all over town to appointments with case workers and to attend classes.


Despite multiple challenges, Sara was always on time for her appointments in the office and would follow through on any tasks or referrals.  Melissa helped her fill out housing paperwork and got her on the waiting list for our agency’s family shelter.  She was able to listen to her concerns and frustrations; Sara seemed to look forward to their visits, even though Melissa couldn’t solve all of her problems.


Melissa saw the couple in the office the other day, checking in about some shelter possibilities. Sara always has a smile for Melissa thought the stress of Sara and her boyfriend have not found permanent housing yet. In addition, Sara’s boyfriend has had a difficult time finding a job in this current economy.  It is our hope that the connection Sara made during her visits to Community Action has given her hope and that she feels she has somewhere to go when she needs help or someone to listen.


*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

 An MSS story: On the Road from Homelessness and Depression to Stable Parenting 

One of our MSS nurses was working with a 23-year-old married woman who was a mother of a 4-year-old child and a 2-month-old infant.  The family was homeless for much of her pregnancy.  The husband had been laid off from his job due to a back injury and mental health issues.  The mom was also struggling with depression. 


The nurse encouraged the client to connect with Compass Health   The client is now taking medication for her depression and reports that she is feeling much better.  The husband is also getting evaluated for his mental health issues. The family now has stable housing and is coping well, despite their issues. They are also exhibiting nice parenting skills with their children.


Providing Hope and Food to Families in Need


While Skagit County is a beautiful place to live and work, roughly 25 percent of Skagit County residents rely on food banks to feed their families.  In a community with such an abundance of fresh produce grown locally, it seems hard to comprehend families going hungry. 


      Just recently, a young family of five who once did very well for themselves, owning their own construction business and a comfortable home, are now finding themselves in need of help.  Like so many others, because of the downturn in the economy and housing market, this family was forced to close their construction business – their sole source of income.  With the threat of foreclosure looming, and having eaten nothing in three days, this family visited Community Action not knowing where to turn, and desperate for help. 


            We were able to give this family access to food immediately, assist them in the process of getting approved for food stamps, as well as direct them to a local food bank which they can visit weekly.  Our efforts to end hunger are fueled by stories like this.


From Food Stamps to Full Employment 

A distraught client on the verge of bankruptcy came in for food assistance, having never needed services before. During the conversation, he mentioned that he and his wife had recently been laid off and were looking for work.  Understanding their situation, our food access staff helped connect the family with Basic Food assistance as well as Apple Health for Kids (a health insurance program for children), Energy Assistance to keep their power from being turned off, to our Volunteer Lawyer Program for assistance and advice regarding the bankruptcy, and finally to an employment program where he obtained employment. Now, the family is out of crisis and the future is looking more optimistic.


Our mission here at Skagit County Community Action Agency is to foster and advocate for self-sufficiency among low-income people in Skagit County. The programs and services offered here at Community Action provide clients with the support and tools needed to significantly improve their situation.