In some ways, Port Townsend is the perfect community for the Washington model of home care co-ops. I was told by a colleague that, years ago, in the 70s and 80s, Port Townsend marketed itself towards retirees. This beautiful community on the Salish Sea is the point where Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca converge. On clear days, Mt. Tahoma (Ranier) can be seen.
The population of Port Townsend (about 9,100 people) tracks older and wealthier than many other communities in the region with a median age of 55 and a median household income of over $50,00 (about 30% of the county is over 65). However, seniors need services and Jefferson County is a very rural community with only 16 people per square mile.
The region also has a rich history of communes and intentional communities, so it should be a surprise that Pt Townsend has a group of citizens formed a Local Investing Opportunity Network (LION) to help maintain the local economy through locally owned businesses.
I first met the administrator, Kippi Waters, and others during a meeting in April of 2015 that was a first step meeting (we talk about the project, goals, and provide context for co-op management). We had some other meetings as well, but I was part of a team with NWCDC. I didn’t have much more to do with the project, since we have staff with quite a bit of experience in home care co-ops and there are many other projects including getting a home care co-op off the ground in Olympia. I was amazed that PHC opened for business on February 8, 2016, barely 9 months after that first meeting.
Kippi tells the story best, of course:
I often tell folks starting a co-op to recruit multiple champions as it can be difficult to balance one’s life and starting a co-op. PHC did have a number of great people involved (including an Olympic athlete!). The combination of a strong founders group combined with the community support and demographics of Port Townsend allowed these caregivers to quickly establish themselves.
You can read a case study on them here (downloads a pdf).