HUMBOLDT – We are a community. No matter where we work, what we believe, how we pray, or the conditions in which we live, each of our lives here in Humboldt is inextricably linked to the actions of those around us. In times of crisis and disaster, when we are at our most vulnerable, our community connections are the source of our strength, our resilience, and our compassion.
It is from this understanding that we formed the Humboldt COVID-19 Community Response Coalition in March of this year. We are a group of community organizations and local institutions working together, in collaboration and cooperation, to care for our neighbors, ensure necessary community services continue, and build a better present and future out of this crisis.
No matter how noble the intentions of our businesses and governments, we knew that – like always – many of our most vulnerable community members would be at risk for grave harm during this pandemic and the economic impact it will leave.
Since early March, our member organizations have been delivering supplies and running errands for our high-risk neighbors, making and distributing DIY cleaning products and masks, ensuring community service organizations are stocked with food and other necessities, and helping one another to continue defending and supporting the people of Humboldt County.
These are some of our many community response projects:
Errands and supply deliveries
The Cooperation Humboldt team has already helped over 100 individuals who are self-isolating or who otherwise need help with groceries, medical supplies, or other necessities. Many of these individuals have used our free services multiple times.
“It is especially gratifying to witness the beautiful personal relationships that are being formed,” said David Cobb, one of the founding members of Cooperation Humboldt.
Food and supply distribution
In assessing our existing resources and converting our efforts into community support, we’ve seen community members of all kinds step up and be part of the solution. Within a couple of weeks of posting a volunteer sign-up sheet, volunteers and community organizers were able to establish secure protocols for food runs/delivery, cooks were able to prepare weekly warm meals for low-income residents in a mobile home park in Trinidad, and volunteers fulfilled requests from our centralized distribution site at Bayside Community Hall.
“If it weren’t for the support of our community our efforts would have not gone as far as they are now,” said Oscar Mogollon, the coalition’s Bayside Community Hall site coordinator. “This clear call to action showcases the resilience and dedication that our community members have put forth during these trying times.”
DIY face masks
Kait Angus, the mask making coordinator, notes that the mask team has delivered over 1,000 handmade reusable masks to 15 local essential businesses and non-profit organizations such as the NAACP, Affordable Homeless House Alternatives (AHHA), the UFCW Local 5 (retail, drug/grocery), Centro del Pueblo, Open Door Community Health Clinic, Jefferson Community Center and many more!
Many volunteers helped make hand sanitizer at home, some using ingredients that the COVID-19 Community Response Coalition sourced in bulk early on, when ingredients were sometimes hard to get.
We were able to distribute the bulk of it, with the help of AHHA and the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction (HACHR), to the communities they work with who don’t have access to regular hand washing.
Support and education for our Latinx community
In collaboration with Beunlucha, Centro del Peublo, and Cooperation Humboldt, we were able to support our Latinx community with translations and interpretations of state regulations, and COVID-19 precautions.
Buenlucha participated in a ‘Know Your Rights’ campaign, made masks for healthcare workers, houseless folks, and the Latinx community, advocated for equity in education and for Special Education rights. Centro del Pueblo successfully fundraised over $13,000 to provide financial support and food to local families and individuals who are undocumented.
Support for our most vulnerable community members
HACHR has continued to provide vital, life-saving services during COVID-19 to people who use drugs and people experiencing homelessness. HACHR has remained a consistent point of contact for some of our most vulnerable community members.
Beyond services intended specifically for people who use drugs, we have also been able to provide hygiene kits, food, clothes, masks, hand sanitizer, wound care supplies, and connection to other resources. We have continued connecting folks with housing (including project Room Key and more permanent housing), social services, and HCV and MAT treatment.
In addition to providing street outreach and the mobile showers, AHHA has relied on the coalition for ordering and distributing food paid for by a Humboldt Area Foundation COVID-19 Regional Response grant to the coalition, along with local producers, community centers, mutual aid groups, public agencies, and grocery stores.
AHHA distributed food and a wide array of supplies and essentials to unhoused communities while implementing a cellular phone network for communications with our neighbors living outside, connecting them with providers and other services as well as their advocates throughout the county during the SIP order.
In many ways, during this crisis and disaster, AHHA, with our amazing volunteers, and other coalition members have facilitated relationships and community connections that strengthen the resolve and compassion for the coalition’s work as well as their own and have made a kinder more inclusive home for all.
Advocacy for our local workers
Access to proper protective equipment for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major concern for the Humboldt & Del Norte Central Labor Council, said John Frahm of the CLC.
“The COVID-19 Community Response Coalition has been instrumental in helping supply worksites with surgical masks and hand sanitizer,” Frahm said. “Additionally, when one of our shop stewards began volunteering her time and making masks, we were able to connect her with the coalition to help distribute to two other areas of our community in need of masks,” he said.
Creating local food autonomy
When the pandemic struck, Cooperation Humboldt’s food team quickly launched a mini gardens initiative that has already provided more than 80 small garden setups to low-income households in Humboldt County at no cost. Installation volunteers work with each family to decide what to plant, and follow up support is provided to ensure that every garden remains healthy and productive. We expect to end this season having installed 200-300 of these gardens.
All of these projects we’ve undertaken in collaboration, working together to share our resources, meet our needs, and further the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors in mutual aid. Not only has this practice of community response helped our community face this pandemic, but it has enshrined in all of us the proof that altruism, compassion, and cooperation are powerful tools for survival.
After the lockdowns lift, and even when the last case of COVID-19 is eradicated in California, disasters will still be on the horizon. From an economic downturn to sea level rise, from wildfires to power outages, community coalitions such as ours are the practice we need to build resilience and connection.
We write to ask each of you not only to support our work, but to join us – in serving your neighbors through and after this crisis, caring for our most at-risk community members, and building the relationships and power we need to ensure a brighter future for all of us.
Our community belongs to all of us. The responsibility for ensuring that our community is resilient, caring, and kind likewise belongs to all of us. Strong and compassionate community is in all of our best interests, because through booms and recessions, through war and peace, through crisis and recovery, we are what we’ve got.
Humboldt COVID-19 Community Response Coalition members:
AHHA (Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives)
Centro del Pueblo
HACHR (Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction)
Humboldt Area Foundation
Humboldt Chapter HCA/PNHP (Health Care For All/Physicians for a National Health Program)
Humboldt and Del Norte Central Labor Council
Humboldt Data & Analysis
Ikigai Physician Group
Klamath Salmon Community Response
North Coast People’s Alliance
Redwood Coast Village
True North Organizing Network