EASTHAM — Three key social service agencies on the Lower Cape have formed an alliance designed to help improve the efficiency of service delivery and to make services more accessible to people in need. The Cape Cod Children's Place, the Community Development Partnership and the Homeless Prevention Council said the partnership offers the possibility of offering new programs together, as well.
The three organizations finalized their partnership by signing a memorandum of understanding on Nov. 29.
“We three fell together naturally,” Community Development Partnership board Vice President Fran McClennen said. The three organizations have a long history of working together, providing referrals to one another and often serving the same clients. “Working collaboratively to offer a menu of services and a coordinated plan to get people what they need is much more effective and efficient. Altogether, we anticipate serving our community more successfully as a result of this formal partnership,” she said.
Collectively, the three organizations serve low- and moderate-income residents through affordable housing and homelessness prevention, early education and child care, family support services, and job skills training. The three organizations have identified a number of programs with the potential for collaboration, and those projects will be put through a vetting and review process involving the staff and boards of the respective organizations.
The three organizations have something else in common: decades serving the population of the Lower and Outer Cape, areas that have unique needs.
“With a combined history of 76 years, the Cape Cod Children’s Place, Community Development Partnership and Homeless Prevention Council are acutely aware of the challenges and opportunities in this more rural region of the Cape,” a joint news release reads. “The economy is more seasonal with a greater reliance on lower paying seasonal jobs. In addition, the region has rates of second home ownership in excess of 50 percent, creating unique pressures on housing affordability. There is a long history of the region being underserved.”
“Families here are really struggling. We’re seeing the demand for services from each of our organizations increasing each year,” Cape Cod Children’s Place Executive Director Cindy Horgan said. “By working in collaboration, we can preserve and strengthen the region’s social safety net.”
A highlight of the alliance is its local leadership and staffing. The organizations are mainly staffed and led by people who live within the communities of the Lower and Outer Cape, and that’s no accident.
“It’s critical for support and services to come from here,” Horgan said. “People within a community trust people from that community. Individuals and families seek help from our organizations because they know us, they trust us.”
One of those individuals is Barbara Bell. Barbara moved to the Cape 10 years ago, and was introduced to the Cape Cod Children’s Place through a support group for single mothers. After that, her children began attending the organization’s early education and care programs.
“The Cape Cod Children’s Place supports parents and families in a way no one else does in this area,” Bell said. A few years later, she was introduced to the Homeless Prevention Council where she started working with one of their case managers. “Their case management program has helped me through some tough situations,” Bell said. “Together, these organizations connect you where you need to go and help you find a way. I wouldn’t be on Cape Cod without them.”
From Bell’s perspective, an alliance between these three organizations is logical.
“If they did unite, it would make a lot of sense for those who need them. I think it would be great,” she said.
The partnership evolved through a thoughtful and patient process including regular meetings of each organization’s board and staff leadership. Organizers credit continuous communication that led to an environment of trust and mutual support.
“This process reinforced relationships and connections among our organizations,” said Richard Laraja, president of the board of directors for the Homeless Prevention Council. “It has been of tremendous value to work and learn with the leadership of the Cape Cod Children’s Place and Community Development Partnership. We’re all speaking the same language and share a vision to strengthen our community,” he said.
In addition to reviewing potential projects for collaboration, the groups will be investigating areas where services can be expanded.
“Another critical component of the work of the alliance going forward is to find the ‘missing pieces’ and determine what more needs to be done to best serve our community,” McClennen said. “This is a first step, and in the future, we would welcome other local organizations, whose missions overlap ours, to consider joining us in this collaborative effort. I am excited and inspired as we move forward with this dynamic opportunity.”