The Community Action Agency's Esplanade House relies heavily on the dedicated staff that work there, but also on the community members themselves. Esplanade House residents have the opportunity to serve on the Esplanade House Community Council and act as the voice for residents and community concerns. They conduct peer reviews of the other residents and are also involved in the interview process during the selection and intake of new families. They help to develop a system of community rewards and consequences that help with resident accountability.
Tim Hawkins, Chief Programs Officer at Butte CAA says, "The purpose of the Community Council is to empower residents to take an active role in self-monitoring and maintaining the health and safety of their community."
Serving on the Council gives residents the opportunity to reinvest in their community. It gives them a sense of pride and ownership in how the program is functioning as a whole. Community involvement is an essential part of the success of the program. Tim Hawkins explains, "The Council provides residents an opportunity to provide input on procedural and programmatic changes that directly affect the delivery of needed services. They coordinate community-wide activities, provide peer orientation to new residents, help manage the on-site food pantry, coordinate the receipt and distribution of donations, help manage the onsite vegetable garden, and provide a staff liaison who has direct access to the Program Manager in an effort to quickly address concerns residents may have."
When we spoke with Council Members they were enthusiastic about being involved. They want to give back to the Esplanade House and be positive role models for incoming residents. Council Member Dawn, P. said that serving on the Council has taught her that "Community unity is a core aspect in helping people feel welcome and able to be successful in their individual journeys." They know how important the Community Council is to the Esplanade House, and spoke about wanting to see it succeed and live on long after their families have moved on. The skills they learn while working together to solve problems as a group are essential tools for their life after leaving the program. It builds the groundwork for leadership skills while focusing on healthy and productive communication.
On a final note, Tim Hawkins said, "It is worth recognizing that all Esplanade House residents were recently homeless – the most vulnerable and voiceless members of our community. They’ve experienced crushing low self-esteem as a result of feeling like a failure and an outcast. The hope is that being part of this Council will help them find confidence in standing up for themselves and their opinions, along with an increased sense of self-worth as an active member of their community."