Community Connections: HRC a forum for collaboration |

Community Connections: HRC a forum for collaboration

Gerald Myers/For the Steamboat Pilot & Today

Human Resource Coalition is a group of agency representatives and individuals with a vested interest in local human service affairs. Its purpose is to provide support and information to its members, collaboratively seek financial support, act as a collective voice, coordinate services to avoid duplication and increase awareness regarding human service needs and activities.

A frantic home dweller wades through knee-high water when frozen pipes freeze and cause his water heater to crack. A frightened wife and mother with ugly bruises and lacerations grips a cold payphone, petrified to return to an abusive husband. A depressed teen struggling with gender ambiguity and social ridicule eyes the Remington in his father's gun case. Phone calls are made. Agencies are contacted, either directly or through triage.

LIFT-UP of Routt County, Advocates for Peaceful Communities, REPS and a host of others respond. Relief, shelter and counseling are dispensed. Lives are saved or improved to the point where individuals and families obtain relief, survive and even thrive.

The professionals who staff these agencies perform their roles in an efficient and effective manner. Their agencies feature a host of diverse programs designed to meet the needs of those at risk. Frequently, resources are taxed and options seem limited.

But they need not function in a vacuum, independent and alone. An organization exists, composed of representatives of these agencies that have a vested interest in local human services affairs and provide assistance. It's called the Human Resources Coalition.

Founded in 1990 by eight local health and human services organizations, the HRC's roster has grown to 21 involved with funding and another 17 that attend meetings to network. The coalition is administered by the United Way of Routt County and meets on the third Tuesday of each month to discuss common needs, weed out overlapping programs, collaborate and brainstorm.

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"We look at what our greatest needs in Routt County are," said United Way Executive Director Kate Nowak. "Then, the coalition considers how, by working as a unified whole, it can make the most difference addressing these needs."

For example, in the early 1990s, the coalition identified the need for housing rental assistance. The Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors took on the funding of the rent assistance program with the HRC, utilizing only volunteers, to administer it. When LIFT-UP of Routt County came into existence in 1996, the funding was handed off to that organization.

"Sometimes, we'll schedule speakers," Nowak said, "usually professionals with expertise in areas of interest to our members who can provide insight into some of our concerns."

These speakers deliver talks on topical issues, like health insurance in the age of the Affordable Care Act, how to run/create a budget, who is the best insurance carrier for the agencies or what's the best way to cut costs, market and fund raise.

Occasionally, the HRC will take on an advocacy project, such as the Social Host Ordinance passed in Steamboat Springs in 2009. Social host liability laws hold private property owners who knowingly provide or allow the provision of alcohol to minors or obviously intoxicated individuals on their property liable if someone is killed or injured as a result of providing that alcohol. Social host liability varies from state to state and can take the form of criminal or civil actions. The HRC played a supportive role in this endeavor.

In addition to the crisis intervention organizations alluded to above, some other local agencies represented in the HRC include Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, The Discovery Center, First Impressions, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Partners in Routt County and Routt County Council on Aging, thus providing a broad and diverse cross-section of the human service resources available to the residents of Routt County.

Dr. Gerald Myers is a clinical cardiologist in Steamboat Springs, an accomplished novelist and a United Way board member.

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