POULSBO — Sound Works Job Center must move out of its building at Iverson Street and 8th Avenue by June 30, according to Executive Director Bob Middlebrook.
Middlebrook said he received a letter from Mayor Becky Erickson in December. The city has allowed Sound Works to use a small space in the former public works building rent-free since 1997, and gives a grant for its operations every year. In the 2013 budget, the city granted $2,500, but with a condition: the nonprofit can only use the money to transition to a new location by June 30.
Middlebrook said he was shocked there was a move-out date already set.
“I have no place to go,” he said.
Sound Works shares the building with Coffee Oasis. When the City Council approved the lease agreement with Coffee Oasis last year, it specified that Sound Works could stay in its current location until another suitable location can be found, according to a Herald interview with Erickson in July 2012.
Middlebrook had conversations with the city about moving Sound Works into the Parks and Recreation building, but that didn’t work for him, he said. The location offered was the old gym, with no windows or electrical plugs, and stairs that would be a problem for the many clients with disabilities he serves, Middlebrook said.
Erickson suggested Middlebrook work with Fishline, which has been seeking a larger facility for its food bank, he said.“We believe in the help Sound Works provides to our community — finding work is the most important step towards self-sufficiency, and it is our mutual goal,” Fishline Executive Director Mary Nader wrote in an email. “If there is an opportunity to include Sound Works in our plan, we think the synergy between the two organizations makes sense, but until we know which direction our building plans go, we cannot commit to it.”
In an interview in February, Erickson said the City Council would make sure Sound Works would have a home in Poulsbo rent-free.
After Thursday's deadline, Erickson said, "It is sad that community resources are becoming scarce. But this is the reality that we face continually at the City of Poulsbo."
"I tried very, very hard to find them a home," she said. The city has been able to provide the location rent-free for 17 years plus funding grants, but the city "just [doesn't] have that funding mechanism anymore."
"[The city has] really tried to help him find another location, and I've been unsuccessful," she continued. "I hope the public steps forward. We've [the city] done it for a long long time … now it's the time for some other organizations to step forward and help him."
Sound Works provides no-cost services such as free employment counseling, resume and job application writing, interview training, and job placement support services. The office also offers the Washington state typing test without a fee. This is its 25th anniversary of helping low-income and unemployed individuals prepare for and find employment.
Sound Works is a partner of WorkSource in Bremerton, but Middlebrook said that agency has not offered assistance in finding a new location. He said there is no other employment assistance in North Kitsap. Some of Sound Work’s clients are homeless, and most get around by bus.
“It takes all day to get [to Bremerton] by bus,” to get help from WorkSource, Middlebrook said.
Sound Works saw a 10 percent increase in client visits last year when the county jobless rate peaked at 8.3 percent, according to a Sound Works release. More than 98 percent of the organization’s funding goes back into operation of the program. Closing shop in Poulsbo will “kill” his clients, Middlebrook said.
Middlebrook estimates Sound Works connected clients with an average of 200 jobs a year.
If you have information about a possible new home for the job center, call (360) 779-1160.