With the library closure on March 13, hundreds of island residents lost access to internet wifi, computers, printing, bathrooms and handwashing. In response, a group in the Vashon Emergency Operations Center is working on a Community Support Hub to provide access to those key services to residents.
“Conversations with Vashon social service leaders alerted us to the unmet needs of library patrons. We realized how the sudden loss of these services amplifies the pandemic’s adversities for our most vulnerable residents.” shared Vicky de Monterey Richoux, director of the Households and Neighborhoods Support branch and president of VashonBePrepared. “Many patrons may not have smartphones or internet, so they have lost access to information about COVID-19 and testing, local food and meal programs and housing assistance, and the ability to apply for stimulus package payments, tax refunds and other government resources.” The King County Library System is unable to assist, due to concerns over employee safety under the current proclamations by Governor Inslee.
With that need identified, Michael Meyer developed a detailed plan for the Hub. Meyer is a volunteer in the Emergency Operations Center’s Households and Neighborhoods Support branch, and a VashonBePrepared board director. Vashon Island Fire and Rescue’s Chief Charlie Krimmert approved the hub as within the state guidelines for essential services, and the protocols will follow Public Health of Seattle-King County guidance on cleaning and social distancing.
The hub will be under the Village Green pavilion, weekday afternoons except Wednesday, when VIGA sponsors VashonFresh pickups. The Vashon Park District will provide a permit to VashonBePrepared to allow the Emergency Operations Center to use the Village Green. “It’s great to be able to offer these services in a spot that’s well-known, centrally located, and easy for people of all abilities to access,” de Monterey Richoux said.
Vashon Park District’s executive director Elaine Ott-Rocheford has shared the park district’s vendors for needed equipment, such as porta-potties and a handwashing station, to be paid for by VashonBePrepared. Details are in the works, but de Monterey Richoux reports they hope to have the hub available for visitors by the end of this week.
For those who cannot or do not access the internet, the Community Support Hub will also share handouts with information on services and resources, along with access to internet and hygiene. Information includes COVID-19 updates and testing, resources on food and meals, housing assistance, and other basic needs. Distribution of handouts to island residents will include locations around the island and in island newspapers.