Oct 26, 2012

Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center

Some people talk, others do. Betty Chinn has quietly been serving the homeless for 30 years with her own money and her time. As more people have gotten involved, Betty's work with the homeless has grown and so has the support.

Yesterday, about 100 people showed up at 133 7th street in Eureka to hear about the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center. This is a partnership between the Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation and the Catholic Charities Diocese of Santa Rosa.

There were community members, representatives from other organizations that work with the homeless, local Catholic church members, business owners, elected officials that included Virginia Bass, Rex Bohn, Marian Brady, Mike Newman, Lance Madsen, Melinda Ciarabellini and City Council candidate Joe Bonino. The people gathered were a diverse group that normally don't gather in one room. But the most noteworthy attendees for me were Jeremy and Ryan, the two men that help Betty every day and maintain the shower facility operated by St. Vincent's.

Pastor Dan Price, board chair for the Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation opened the meeting and explained how this idea came about and mentioned other board members which include Kurt Kramer, Paul Gallegos and David Tyson. He and others mentioned how their view of the homeless has changed by knowing Betty.

The day center that is proposed at this site has been funded by an anonymous donor from Fortuna who now lives in Santa Rosa. Many businesses are donating time and finances to the renovation. They have funding that will allow them to operate for a year. There is a wish list of items that people can help with if they don't have money or volunteer time.

Betty, the board members and City Council members visited the successful program in Sonoma County and wanted a similar program here in Humboldt County. They explained what services will be offered, how this day center will work and what services will be provided and answered questions about safety, protocols, finances.

The mission of the the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center is "to honor all of humanity by providing direct response to immediate needs and helping the destitute achieve the dignity needed to return to society as contributing members."

Stan Cordero, director of programs, said last night, "Homeless is a community challenge and only a community can solve it."

If every person reached out to another person, this is a problem we can overcome. And to those who think this help comes with conditions because Catholics are involved, it does not, it is given without strings attached. Just a hand up to lift up those who  need to be seen, believed and respected and valued as any other human being.

In Betty's work, I see the gift God gave her and the strength. Betty has lived through as a child what the homeless go through each day and for her this is not a job. As she said at the meeting, "I show the love that was shown to me."

I can relate to what Betty said. When I had no where to go and no hope and felt less than worthy, it has been people who live these values that showed me love and believed in me. It made a difference in my life.

My gratitude to Betty and all involved and you can definitely count on me being a part of this community effort.