Five Questions with Dawn Barrett, Social Worker/Veterans Program, Community & Human Services

1. Dawn BarrettWhat was your first role at King County? My first role for King County was in 2004 as a Social Worker for the out-of-school young adults enrolled in our YouthSource program in Renton. I recall my fascination with the size of the team and the innovative and creative programs they were implementing such as Youth Build and Digital Bridge; both aimed to achieve education and employment outcomes to combat income inequalities for this population. The team was incredible at creating a safe and fun place for learning while investing in the development of life skills and relationship building which made it less like a program and more of a community.

2. What is the goal of the Regional Veterans Initiative (RVI)? We have a robust Veteran service delivery system in King County, funded with over $500M annually from all our partners and more than 180 programs and services across the region designed specifically for veterans and their families. The system encompasses outreach and engagement; information and referral; homelessness and housing; education, employment and other benefits; justice system interventions and legal services; and health and behavioral health services. The goal of the RVI is to ensure veterans and their families get to the best resources in the fewest steps and that all the partners are working together toward that goal.

3. What do you do in your role as the RVI project manager? While the RVI sunsets at the end of 2015, my role has been to coordinate the resources that exist, identify what is missing, and implement system improvements. I meet regularly with our community partners to learn and understand how they operate individually and how we may maximize one another’s resources to function as a system. As a result we have established strong relationships and trust amongst community partners to improve our coordination and implement system improvements. This work is most visible in the progress we have made on our community-wide goal to end Veteran homelessness by the end of this year.

4. What is the biggest challenge in your job? It is difficult to navigate the more than 180 government, non-profit and private sector programs dedicated to serving veterans and their families living in King County. The variety of policies and processes governed by complex rules, regulations, eligibility, mission, accessibility, geography and choice are overwhelming and at times seem counterintuitive to the mission of serving Veterans and their Families in the fewest steps. The lack of a technological solution to assist with the matching of a Veteran or Family member’s needs to specific and available resources is extremely challenging.

5. What do you like most about your role? The most rewarding part of my role with the RVI is knowing that everything we accomplish together will benefit the veterans and families living in our community. I am fortunate to work with the incredible people at our partner agencies and veteran service organizations and to also receive ample support from my supervisor. This position has stretched me professionally and I have thrived on the challenges it has presented.