EUREKA – Every night hundreds of people in Humboldt County sleep outside. Cooperation Humboldt, a local social change organization, believes that health and housing are human rights. On August 24, 2021, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors awarded a $404,601 Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program for Coronavirus grant through the Department of Health & Human Services to Cooperation Humboldt’s street outreach project.
For the past few months, Cooperation Humboldt’s Community Health Workers have been talking with unsheltered residents to establish relationships and listen to peoples’ insights, concerns and stories. Those conversations are the first step in Cooperation Humboldt’s Human Centered Design process – engaging the people being served in the design of their own solutions. With funding from the ESG grant, Cooperation Humboldt will perform a needs assessment of every individual enrolled in the program and then work with each person to create a client-driven individualized plan to address that person’s urgent physical needs as well as other needs. They will then connect those residents to available housing and health resources and support them through the process of finding housing. Cooperation Humboldt plans to train and employ several program participants as Peer Community Health Workers to participate in this work.
“There is a great need in Humboldt County and Eureka for innovative, person-centered approaches to community well-being. I deeply appreciate the Community Health Worker model and am excited to support this work. As a society, we must ceaselessly endeavor to meet the changing needs of our community in ways that provide brilliant possibilities for what is possible,” said Castellano.
The project is part of Cooperation Humboldt’s larger Community Health Worker (CHW) Collaborative. Using a Human Centered Design approach with the support of ThinkPlace, they co-develop and implement programs with direct participation and leadership from within the communities they serve, ultimately leading to the development of independent, autonomous, worker self-directed nonprofit organizations.
The Community Health Worker Collaborative has already fostered the development of two independent Community Health Worker groups: New Rising Hmong Association and Comunidad Unida del Norte de Arcata (CUNA - “cradle” in Spanish).
New Rising Hmong Association is a group of Hmong women creating a non-profit organization in Eureka. The group formed in order to better connect individuals in the Hmong community to health and social services. CHW Collaborative member Lindsay McCovey from Native American Pathways serves as their mentor, sharing from her experience building an organization with similar goals on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. McCovey collaborates with Cooperation Humboldt Community Health Worker Sabrina Miller to support New Rising’s continued development.
Christina Vang, a founding member of New Rising said, “What drew me in was to make positive changes in our community and strive for excellence because I see that although the Hmong Community has been in the US for over 30 years we are still behind, and I just want to see us move forward because I know that we can do better.”
Yanly Yang, a founding member of New Rising said it is important to her that Hmong residents, “not lose sight of who we are, but be able to improve our education and knowledge, and then go from there by connecting the youth with the older generation. The more we are spread out and disconnected, the more we lose our language, culture and religion.”
Mai Chang, a founding member of New Rising said, “I’m more focused on the youth because they are the future. We need to be sure to connect the youth with the older generation so that our culture is not lost.”
When asked “What inspires you?” Lindsay McCovey of Native American Pathways, a Hoopa Valley Tribal member, and descended from the Yurok and Chimariko Tribes, said “I strive to be a resource for Native people by connecting them with services that contribute to their wellness and achievement. And I know our community is resilient, and together we’ll emerge stronger than before. “
CUNA formed in response to the need for Latino-led community organizing and advocacy to address the unmet needs of people living in the Valley West area of Arcata. Their long-term goal is to open a community/family resource center in Valley West, possibly on the Laurel Tree Charter School campus, after the school moves to its new location in McKinleyville.
CHW Collaborative partner Lucy Salazar from Cumbre Humboldt and Cooperation Humboldt Care Team Member Oscar Mogollon coordinate the group.
According to Salazar, “A large number of minority and disadvantaged residents live in the unserved northern part of Arcata. A resource center in Valley West with Spanish-speaking staff would help address the many needs of these hardworking families and individuals: social services, food distribution, and educational and recreational opportunities.”