5 Questions for Leslie Naramore, WGAP
Learn more about this long-running human services agency serving Klickitat and Skamania Counties, which was recently selected as a Care Coordination Agency for the Pathways Community HUB pilot in Southwest Washington.
Washington Gorge Action Programs (WGAP) helps individuals, families and communities in Klickitat and Skamania Counties address basic human needs, with a focus on serving those with low incomes. SWACH recently selected WGAP as a Care Coordination Agency (CCA) to pilot the Pathways Community HUB model in Klickitat County. The HUB is an innovative, community-based model that identifies a person’s needs and connects them to local services. WGAP will train and hire Community Health Workers (CHWs) to work directly with community members and help them address barriers to good health.
As WGAP prepares to embark on this innovative program, we sat down with Executive Director Leslie Naramore to learn more about the agency, its history and its interest in the HUB model.
Tell us a little about WGAP and its history
We’ve been around since 1966. The organization formed as a result of the Economic Opportunity Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The act created community action agencies, like WGAP, all across the United States to fight a “War on Poverty”.
Today, our mission is strengthening community by inspiring hope and helping people help themselves. We average 27 employees and we do a little of bit of everything human services-related in Klickitat and Skamania Counties. That ranges from our food bank programs, emergency housing, domestic violence intervention and prevention, a youth center and more.
When low income folks in our community need help, chances are we’re the agency they turn to. And when we can’t help them we make referrals to other agencies
What are some of the specific needs and opportunities in Klickitat and Skamania Counties?
Lack of affordable housing is a big issue. Our emergency housing program is our most comprehensive. We offer several shelters, case management, budgeting and life skills to help people get and sustain housing. We also offer limited rent assistance.
Another big need is affordable child-care. We run the Community Youth Center in White Salmon to help families in that area. Plus, we recently organized a community summit on the childcare issue. One of the takeaways was that we need more licensed child care providers. We’re organizing a follow up event to bring Washington’s licensure to help people learn about getting licensed.
Food access is another challenge. Our food bank is probably our most utilized program. We have four food bank locations located in Stevenson, Bingen, the town of Klickitat and Goldendale.
WGAP was recently selected as a Care Coordinating Agency for the Pathways Community HUB in Klickitat County. What do you see as the opportunity?
I think it’s a really forward-thinking program. We are a trauma-informed agency and I believe the Community HUB model, with peers and community health workers, is the future of trauma-informed care. Having someone that goes out and meets with clients in their homes, I think that’s very powerful.
To give you a few examples, transportation is a big challenge for our rural, elderly community members. It can be tough to get them to services. Another issue that people around here face is communication. In Klickitat, there is no cell service.
So we have isolation. And lack of access to services. That’s why the HUB model is so exciting for us, where community health workers engage community members in their homes and community settings.
Why Community Health Worker-driven care coordination is a good fit for Klickitat County?
It absolutely makes sense. Our hope is that people will be more comfortable taking assistance, because they can work with someone from their community.
What really stands out is that it’s peers, people who have experienced the system. They can walk clients through the process from the standpoint of someone who’s been there, rather than telling them what they think.
As we start hiring CHW’s we’re going to be looking for people from the community. Not only are we able to provide employment, having people from community who may have relationships with the people they serve will have a huge impact!
We’re very excited about Pathways. It’s a way forward. It’s more sustainable. We’re happy to be part of it.
You mentioned that your housing program is one of your most comprehensive. Tell us more about that.
We have a permanent supportive housing program for people with disabilities, ranging from physical disabilities to mental health and addiction. The goal is to get them in housing and get them to stay housed.
While they are in the program they pay up to 30 percent of their income toward rent and we pay the rest. They hold the lease with the landlord and over the course of the program we step away and they can stay there in the house. So we help them secure a source of income, work with their landlord and with other life skills so they can maintain their housing.
Learn more about the Pathways Community HUB at https://southwestach.org/coordinating-care/
Learn more about WGAP at http://www.wgap.ws/