Serving compassionately: making an impact in communities during COVID-19

Elisha, Horacio and Lisa of Plateau Outreach Ministries (POM) in Enumclaw, an organization funded by the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL), have been busy spending their days compassionately serving their community, adapting services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure their community members’ most critical needs are being met.

POM is the central hub for comprehensive social services for vulnerable populations in rural southern King County and helps those who are struggling to overcome poverty and adversity but have limited access to resources. Funding from the VSHSL has supported POM’s role as a central access point to social services to help clients leverage government and non-government programs to increase their ability to pay for stable housing and basic needs.

In addition to continually making shifts and adjustments to the services they deliver due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, POM has forged critical partnerships with local senior centers, and serves vulnerable communities in rural areas that might not otherwise be served.

Passion and purpose

At POM, due to the pandemic, food bags are distributed through drive thru services and case managers are meeting with clients virtually. While these changes have enabled services to continue, they have brought their own challenges and needs. Many residents of POM’s community struggle with virtual connectivity – due using unfamiliar technology or lack of internet access. POM helps clients navigate virtual services by applying for benefits together online and providing options for dropping off/mailing paper applications for benefits.

Navigating these new challenges would not have been possible without the dedicated staff at POM. Each staff member brings their experiences, skills and passion to the organization to serve King County’s communities. Meet Elisha, Horacio and Lisa and learn about what they have been doing at POM to support their community.

Elisha, Executive Director

We have an amazing staff, we have a very lucky community to have each other, I never thought I would end up in this role, but I am very blessed. I can see how all of the other stuff I have done has made [POM] a perfect fit. I want to make sure the most vulnerable that are in our community are taken care of and that there are resources. That they entrust us with that, that is huge.”

Elisha, the Executive Director at POM, has continued to provide steady leadership that keeps the doors open at POM during COVID-19. Elisha helps POM staff approach serving their community with flexibility and a focus on meeting their communities’ most critical needs.

Horacio, Case Manager

“My daughter she is very shy, I brought her [to POM]… to help out because we need the help. She said ok, she didn’t say no I don’t want to go, she enjoyed it. Every night we have a dinner time, we share our highs and lows, that night we asked what was your high of the day. She said going to POM and helping. That was something that surprised me because I wasn’t expecting it. I thought she was like oh I’m going to do this because my dad asked me to come help at work. It’s been a big impact on my children, my wife is very happy too that I’m here because she sees that this is a life giving thing that I’m connected with, it’s not just a job…its life giving, and it’s both life giving and hard because you help a lot of people and you can’t help them with everything.”

Horacio provides language access and culturally responsive service to Spanish speaking communities that face multiple barriers. VSHSL funding helped POM to hire a bilingual staff member, enabling them to increase their reach to a part of their community they previously weren’t able to serve. Horacio is gaining more clients who speak Spanish and, now, the majority of his case load is Spanish speaking. Bilingual support and increased language access have been particularly helpful and necessary as immigrants and frontline workers, many of whom are Spanish-speaking, have been especially impacted by COVID-19. Horacio has been focused on short-term assistance due to eviction moratoriums and COVID-19, helping people learn about and navigate their eligibility for pandemic-related assistance.

Lisa, Case Manager

“I don’t know that I have ever fallen in love with a person to the degree that I fell in love with POM. It was the way people treated each other here, it wasn’t like a job to the employees. When I first volunteered I would tell them when I left this is the best day of the week, because it really was—I was just full of gratitude, I would leave in the morning to come in and go home and just think I am so blessed.”

Lisa has been instrumental in helping people overcome navigation challenges of virtual services. She has helped people set up email accounts for their application efforts and established a partnership with Black Diamond Senior Center to safely provide computer access (as many libraries are closed due to COVID-19) and to help coordinate paperwork and care for mutual clients.

Lisa helped an older gentleman who suffered a stroke and needed low income housing connect to SNAP, health insurance, the King County Housing Repair Program, the King County Housing Authority Weatherization Program, King County Tax Relief, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and other one-time yearly benefits. The support of these benefits provided him with enough money to stay in his home, which he hadn’t thought would be possible. Lisa had connected with the client’s sister, helping to strengthen their family connections and providing her client with support for his care.

We are proud to have POM as part of our VSHSL community. Learn more about organizations funded by the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy and the services they provide King County’s communities.

Video courtesy of Plateau Outreach Ministries