By Christopher Oak Reinier

          The West County Community Services staff held their November all-staff meeting last week. At the monthly meetings, the staff report to each other about their activities. And a member of one of the Divisions will often present information helpful to the work done by all the staff. 

           Melissa Fike, WCCS Director of Senior Adult Counseling, spoke to the staff about the importance of “boundaries” in the work of serving others. The professional social service worker’s focus must, of course, be on the needs of the client, not the worker’s needs. The worker’s personal life must be kept separate from the work he or she is doing and separate from the client’s life. The social services worker needs to know the limits of his or her role and capabilities, and must try not to exceed them. That can be as problematic as under-achieving can be. It is also the responsibility of any social services staff to take care of his or her self so that personal state of mind or issues do not bleed into client care.  Poor boundaries are not sustainable in this work, and can ultimately lead to burnout.

         For people working in a service agency, such as WCCS, there can be a tendency to want to help too much, to do more for the client than Melissa talking to staffis warranted or appropriate to the role, to want to fix what is wrong.  It is a noble motive for work but it can lead to the professional trying too hard, confusing the boundaries between worker and client and inadvertently disempowering the client. The professional social services worker has to keep some distance, and must let the client do their own work and identify their own goals.

         It’s a careful balance for anyone in the social service field, a balance each worker must attend to. Not easy. How to care and not care too much, holding that sensitive, but all important boundary.

         In other matters, Daniel Barwick was introduced as the new Sebastopol Park Village on-site manager. WCCS has begun a housing-for-the-homeless program there. The program will provide eight additional living units for homeless families and individuals, and will provide the full-range of WCCS services to the 65 low-income residents already living there.

          Dannielle Danforth, Director of Housing, announced the December 2 opening of the Emergency Shelter in the Vets Building in Guerneville. A new Shelter staff has been hired to manage it for the four months it is open from December through March. The new staff introduced themselves. Each appears to be uniquely experienced and well-qualified to do the sometimes challenging work.

          Erica Azimov has been hired as a case manager for the Rapid Re-Housing program for the homeless. Phillip Tapia continues his work providing WCCS services and resources for 95 low-income residential units throughout west county.

          Emily Heinzelman, Director of Operations, reported that the Senior Center is offering four Junior College classes for its members now:  memoire writing, individual computer tutoring, current events, and an art class. The Sisters Bingo event will occur on Saturday, December 9.  The annual event  fills the Vets Building with brilliant fun and games, all the money for which is donated to the Senior Center.  The Senior Center’s annual Christmas luncheon will be served on Thursday, December 21. Jeannette Parros is working with 13 clients now as Case Manager at the Senior Center.

          Valerie Belotte and Miller Pheonix reported that the staff of the Empowerment Center and many of its members are relieved the Emergency Shelter has opened.  The cold and the rain have already been hard on the homeless. The staff is planning a winter Solstice party at the Empowerment Center.

          Laura Meuller has completed work on the WCCS newsletter, which will be distributed in the next week or so.

          Gam Caldwell, Jennifer Hervey, and Jonathan Galicia manage one case at a time to find employment for at-risk youth and adults. Xochi Lubin-Amaya continues her work as a high school counselor with at-risk students, while she interns for her MFT license with the in-home seniors’ counseling program.

          The work of WCCS continues: helping the most vulnerable in our community to improve the quality of their life one person at a time.