At the Community Action Agency of Butte County, our mission is to provide hope to people struggling with poverty to help them become more self-sustaining. Connecting with those in our community that share that goal is essential to the success of our organization and the people we serve.
Tim Hawkins, our Chief Programs Officer, was recently invited to speak with Carol Winkler, Host of Community Issues on KHAP Family Radio. Carol wanted to find out more about the Community Action Agency and it's programs, especially the Esplanade House. Carol shares our concerns for this community and all it's residents, including those struggling with poverty and homelessness. Tim was grateful for the opportunity to share a little about our programs, goals and needs.
What is CAA?
Community Action Agencies across the United States were born out of President Johnson's war on poverty in 1964. Today there are over 1100 Community Action Agencies that share the same federal mandate to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty by whatever means necessary in our community. We help people on fixed incomes weatherize their homes, so that they can spend less on their energy bills. We run the North State Food Bank, which provides low cost or free food options to low income families. We provide transitional housing to those who might end up homeless, and we provide affordable housing options to low income families as well. Just last year the Community Action Agency of Butte County celebrated our 50th anniversary.
The Esplanade House
The Esplanade House originally opened it's doors in 1991. In collaboration with developer Greg Webb, Dr. Gary Incaudo, we began offering services at a renovated motel at 2505 Esplanade, which could house a total of 14 families. CAA provided wrap-around services to address the trauma these families had experienced being homeless. The goal was to try and break a generational cycle of poverty that these families had been experiencing.
It quickly became evident that the need was greater than just this small motel facility. There was an increasingly long waiting list for families trying to get into the Esplanade House. In the early 2000's a new site was secured and developed, where we now operate a 60 unit apartment complex for over 100 people a year.
Our Purpose at The Esplanade House
The purpose of the program is to address the root causes of homelessness for families. We develop a unique service plan for each of those families that is tailored to their individual needs. These families are provided structure and guidance, using several different evidence based programs.
The outcome of our program is that homeless families who have previously been direct consumers of a variety of public services, start to begin to give back to the community. This includes gainful employment, which contributes to the local economy, decrease in reliance on public assistance, and learning the ethic of giving back.
The program also contributes to decreasing the community's crime rates. Some residents had been involved in illegal activities when they were homeless. Through their development in our programs, we strive to break the cycle of bad habits that perpetuated their instability and homelessness. the programs focus on maintaining sobriety and learning ways to manage difficult emotions and problem solving skills. Graduates of the Esplanade House program come out prepared to participate in the community in healthy, productive ways.
When families experience homelessness, children are the most heavily impacted. Often there's substance abuse issues in the family, sometimes one or both parents are having significant legal issues, or have ended up in prison. The children experience significant trauma that can affect them throughout their lives. Sometimes they have been taken away from their parents and put in foster care. In Northern California, there is a huge lack of families that are able to foster these children, so these children end up in the system.
We have partnerships with the legal services of Northern California, which are able to help these families. Butte County's Children's Services department has realized that in general, children have more long-term success if they are with their families. When they are ready, we can try to help reunite families and bring them into our programs to help repair the damage that has been done, and set them up for success.
It Starts With the Parents
Through the Esplanade House program, parents are able to address a huge set of skills that they likely did not receive through their upbringing. We have classes where they learn healthy relationships, anger management, and general living skills. People growing up in these situations didn't learn how to balance a checkbook, they didn't learn how to clean their house properly, have a sanitary situation in their kitchen or even do laundry on a regular basis. Families are coached in these basic skills to set them on a path to self-sufficiency.
The Esplanade House is funded mostly through the children's services department. We are also funded partially through the department of education and social services of Butte County. Still, about one-third of our funds come from private donations in the community. It's a true community effort to wrap our arms around these families and set them up for success.
Needs and Challenges
Our biggest challenges are finding safe and secure housing for these families to go to afterwards. In Butte County, and all across California, there's a housing crisis. Also, landlords often require renters to have three times the amount of income compared to the rent. It's very difficult for families that are making $2,000.00 a month to be able to secure a two bedroom apartment that is $1,000 or $1200.00 a month. They need to be making upwards of three to four thousand dollars a month to be able to get into a safe and secure home. We are looking for landlords in the community to partner with us, and give these families a chance.
Employment is another area where we need community help. Some residents have been out of the workforce for six months, a year, or even five years. Leaving the program they have new skills and are highly motivated to provide a stable environment for their families. They're great employees, we just need business owners to partner with us to give them a chance to prove it.
We Need Your Help
One way that the community can help is through donations. If you want to give to the Esplanade House click here. You can also reach out to us at 530-712-2600.
Work for Butte CAA
Programs continue to shift and grow and as that happens we need qualified people who are committed to our mission. If you are interested in making a difference in your community, check out our career opportunities here.