Saturday, June 19, 2021

We are all in this together

by LINNIS JELLINEK Contributing Writer
| May 19, 2021 1:00 AM

Like it or not we are all “doing life” together. We live in a community that is small, diverse, and exceptional beyond words. I’ve examined the word community closely and in addition the dictionary meaning, “a unified body of individuals with common interests living in a particular area” the word unity itself makes up half of the word community. Unity means “two or more people or groups or institutions joining together to act as one”. This involves trade-offs. Everybody must give up something to gain new ground and make progress to better the community.

It is unity that motivates us at the Community Resource EnVision Center (formerly the Sandpoint Community Resource Center) which opened its doors May 3, 2021. Transitioning over the past year from a resource center for referrals to services to a one-stop HUB where non-profits, service providers and agencies will co-locate under one roof to deliver services. This will bring efficiency to helping those in need or crisis and will optimize resources so that there is more to go around because the needs are growing and without a significant change, we are all sinking.

Life together under one roof will create an atmosphere that fosters collaboration and ingenuity to address the growing needs in our community. It’s also just good business to substantially lower overhead, optimize resources, and yet maintain organizational autonomy. Imagine multiple boards of directors coming together to address gaps and overlaps in services and developing a strategy to address them? Picture with me, nonprofit staff members, volunteers, and mentors coming together to join forces to move the mountain of needs in front of us?

You may be wondering just how big are the needs because for a lot of people, living or moving here, the needs are invisible? Who do we serve? Good question. Prior to the pandemic we primarily served the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population who are the working poor in Bonner and Boundary counties. People who are working and barely able to meet basic needs. They are one unexpected expense away from an urgent financial need or a full-blown crisis. If the car needs repaired so that you can get to work where do you find money to fix the car and pay the rent or utility bills? The number of those in poverty or just above the poverty line is 44% in both Bonner and Boundary counties.

During the pandemic a new population of people in need emerged and they were people who had never had to ask for assistance before. They represented 45% of those we served in 2020, in addition to the ALICE population, who had more needs than ever before. The needs in our community remain high and people are not on their feet again despite stimulus checks and unemployment benefits. The average member of our community doesn’t have any idea of the percentage of people living on a knife-edge financially. In Bonner county that’s 17,584 households and in Boundary county that equates to 4,605 households. Shocking isn’t it? These statistics are through 2018 and does not include 2020 because this report comes out every two years and the next report is due out in early 2023. Source:

Rather than wringing our hands or holding our breath for the next ALICE report we decided to act and we opened the second HUD EnVision Center in Idaho and the fourth in the entire Northwest. EnVision Centers are “one-stop hubs” for underserved rural areas to help people reach self-sufficiency. A place where nonprofits and service providers who serve human needs are under one roof! There are four foundational focus areas to help people help themselves: Financial Empowerment, Educational Advancement, Health & Wellness and my personal favorite, Character & Leadership. Equipped with nineteen letters for support of the EnVision Center from community stakeholders such as City of Sandpoint, Office of County Commissioners, Panhandle Health District, Dept. of Labor, and the Innovia Foundation to name a few, we moved forward with the application process. From the initial introduction to our board of directors to the approval of our application was 100 days…and what a ride it was. Our HUD team as never seen a community come together, apply, and be approved as an EnVision Center so quickly. We are not tethered to HUD financially in any way because we received no funding from them. They serve as advocates for our area to bring resources and programs to support the center.

We are in this together! We can’t do this without you! Richard Barrett, is a British author who writes about leadership, leadership development, values, as well as cultural evolution in business and society has a fitting quote, “organizations don’t transform; people do!”

It’s going to take time to turn back the dial on poverty in our area but together we can do this as a community. The Community Resource EnVision Center is located at 130 McGhee Road, Suite 220 in Ponderay. We have leased 10,000 square feet to accommodate up to eight nonprofits and service providers full-time and up to twenty on a part-time basis. Yes…we’ve made the commitment to the future of our community so that all who live here will thrive and flourish.