Klamath Works: a Philosophy and a Physical Campus
The Klamath Basin is home to timber, ranch and agriculture communities hit hard by changing economic and social patterns. Since the recent recession our rural region struggled to hold on to living-wage jobs, contributing to problems with crime, drug abuse and homelessness.
In 2014, the founders of Klamath Works set out to make a change. They learned that the typical way of helping needy individuals is through welfare programs. And the typical way of providing services to needy clients has been to send them to many different locations many miles apart – with the risk of losing them at any step along the way.
If we cared only about material poverty, government welfare programs might suffice. But the worse form of poverty is of the mind and the spirit. Indeed, research verifies the emotional toll that joblessness imposes on individuals. Unemployment raises the risk of alcohol or drug abuse, divorce or even suicide.
The founders of Klamath Works met with dozens of government agencies, charities and religious ministries. They heard a consistent message: the best welfare program for Klamath County would be more jobs. Because a job is the best weapon in combating poverty – not merely poverty of income but of health, of pride, and of spirit.
So our team came up with a bold and radical solution: the Klamath Works Campus where a unique consortium of non-profits and social services will collaboratively serve clients with the common goal of returning the needy to self-sufficiency by preparing them for work. Work has meaning beyond a paycheck and the necessities it buys. A job re-engages individuals with their neighbors and communities. A job provides choices and the hope for a better future. Individuals with jobs don’t merely have fuller bank accounts. They have fuller lives.
Construction on the Klamath Works Campus has already begun, through generous support of the Sky Lakes Medical Center, whose leadership understands the crucial interactions between work and health. Government social services are considering locating to the campus, where they can better serve their clients by being near other providers. And nonprofit and faith-based groups will also station at the campus.
Located south of the downtown core, this public and private service hub will begin with a new Sobriety Center, mental health services, the Klamath Falls Gospel Mission and the Klamath Works, Inc. job program.
The Klamath Works Campus is a new comprehensive, integrated social service model that will not only help those in need support themselves financially, but to fully realize their human potential.
The initial partners in this first phase of the campus are:
- Sky Lakes Medical Center: Homeless and transient individuals often turn to the emergency room both for routine medical care as well as for detox. A Sobriety Center, staffed by Klamath Basin Behavioral Health and supported by Sky Lakes Medical Center and other community partners, could substantially reduce healthcare and law enforcement costs while providing a safe place away from the streets for intoxicated individuals.
- Klamath Basin Behavioral Health: The campus will house a satellite office of mental health services that would assist with intake and direction of new clients to appropriate service providers.
- The Klamath Falls Gospel Mission: The Gospel Mission plans to locate to the new Campus, where it can fulfill its long-time goal of a women’s shelter and expanded kitchen and in addition adding a new men’s facility and administrative offices at far less cost than its previous plans to expand downtown. Locating at the Campus also will bring the Mission into even greater partnership and cooperation with other area social service providers.
- The Klamath Works Job Training Program. Clients participate in an individualized, flexible program and are teamed with a Job Coach. Short classroom time allows clients to reinforce their lessons through interactive, educational experiences. Clients get to ask questions and build confidence through their field work. Every graduate of the Klamath Works program is certified job ready. And each Klamath Works graduate heads into the work place with a mentor who walks with them as a friend, as well as communicates with the graduate’s employer to ensure a successful transitions into work.