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Buckeye getting more help from county Human Services

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BUCKEYE — A new arrangement that will help Buckeye residents get access to more services was set in motion by a decision made by the Buckeye City Council on Tuesday.

By unanimously approving the consent agenda at its regular meeting, the council approved $75,000 in funding for staffing and case management for social service programs.

Operating through the Buckeye Community Services Center, a case manager will meet with Buckeye residents and point them toward free services based on need.

Buckeye’s Community Action Program office closed in 2011 after 27 years of partnering with local government and faith-based nonprofit groups to provide various social services for seniors.

Since then, Maricopa County staff have come to the Buckeye Community Services center two or three times per month, putting a strain on the center’s staff the rest of the time.

Phil Yabes, manager of the Community Services Center, led a presentation at a council workshop held before Tuesday’s meeting. He said the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the need to provide assistance to low-income residents and those facing crisis.

“As we are growing so fast as a city, it’s important for Buckeye residents to have a place to meet, face-to-face, with professionals who can help address their needs,” Yabes said.

Miranda Gomez, director of Buckeye’s Community Services Department, said meetings with officials from nearby cities and agencies helped to determine there is a need to coordinate services. She said much of the $75,000 the council authorized will be used for training for those two employees in fiscal 2022.

It’s anticipated Maricopa County will provide about $365,000 in direct resident payments in fiscal 2023 for rent or utility assistance.

There are two social services positions approved in the fiscal 2022 city budget. Gomez said Rachel Sanders is the city’s newly hired social services coordinator, and a caseworker position is being advertised now.

“We have a geographic issue that most other area cities don’t deal with,” Gomez told the Council. “And what works for Avondale or Surprise is not necessarily going to be what works here in Buckeye.”

At its Oct. 19 meeting, council renewed an operating agreement with Salvation Army, which has a utility assistance program.

Some short-term solutions including relocating a domestic violence victim to immediate shelter and providing housing and food for the homeless, Gomez said.

Jacqueline Edwards, director of Maricopa County Human Services, said her department’s services include HeadStart early childhood education Early HeadStart in three Buckeye classrooms, family crisis management, workforce development helping with barriers to employment, intensive case management for disabilities, affordable housing programs, homelessness services and energy efficiency home assistance.

Edwards said federal COVID-19-related funding has allowed Maricopa County Human Services to expand immensely. While some of the quadrupling of the department’s $267 million budget for fiscal 2022 will be one-year funding, the department has been able to help purchase hardware for partners, such as food banks that need new refrigerators.

Also, the department has added 150 employees.
In fiscal 2021, which ended June 30, the Human Services division supported the HeadStart programs, provided 2,457 Buckeye households with rent or utility assistance, Edwards said.

MCHS also provided Buckeye residents with 162 grab-and-go meals, rehabilitated and created energy efficiencies for 14 homes, invested $600,000 in the Buckeye Community Services Center expansion, invested $250,000 in workforce training programs, helped 238 Buckeye residents with workforce development issues and served 139 seniors through its Independent Living Program.

The social services program will be housed at the Buckeye Community Services Center with staff reporting to Yabes. He expects the center will be able to serve 500 families annually once the program is fully established in Fiscal 2023.

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