- Transforming Health through Sustainable Community Building
- Lemon Hill Crop Swap: More than Fresh Produce
- Mutual Housing at the Highlands Volunteers Help Neighbors Fight Hunger
- National Search for CEO
- Accepting Applications Now for Summer VISTAs
Transforming Health through Sustainable Community Building
Stable, clean and affordable housing is an essential public health need. According to John Hopkins University, “Affordable and safe housing is important to the well-being and health of families. Without adequate housing, families have trouble managing their daily lives. When this happens, their health suffers.”¹ Mutual Housing California’s mission is to confront this reality by developing, operating and advocating for sustainable homes that build strong communities through resident participation and leadership development. To realize our mission we intentionally listen to our resident members to ensure our communities are designed to promote health. This manifests in including community garden spaces, innovating bike- and car-sharing programs, and linking with partners such as UC Davis Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.
UC Davis nursing students Roxy Neale and Tuong Pham began work this spring alongside our community organizers as part of our ongoing partnership with the UC Davis Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. Their PITCH program, which stands for Partners in Transforming Community Health, is designed to improve collaboration between health disciplines through service to the community.
On a recent Saturday in April, one mutual housing community courtyard was transformed into a pop-up community health fair, effectively placing a variety of health education and prevention services at our resident members’ front door. “We’re trying to build a healthier community. In researching what this community needed, I identified bringing the health resources to their home would address transportation barriers while also reducing stigma from going to a public health center. Of course it is still challenging to make sure our service providers can communicate and that our education is culturally sensitive,” explains Tuong.
Indeed, Mutual Housing California’s residents reflect the diversity among the low-income population of California. We serve the most vulnerable people in our state, including low-income families, immigrants, and seniors. Mutual Housing at Lemon Hill resident members speak Vietnamese, Chinese, and Spanish, with few English speaking households. “It is important to acknowledge these dynamics mean language, literacy, and non-American cultural norms also play into the success of a community health effort such as today’s fair,” Tuong elaborates.
“For years the history of medicine has been that you go see the doctor when you’re feeling sick, they give you a prescription, you leave and you’re done. Well now more and more, it is acknowledged that health is more than just a prescription,” explains Roxy. A central goal for Roxy and Truong is to buoy their healthcare bridging efforts into lasting impact in Mutual Housing communities. “We want [our initiatives] to benefit the community not just right now but sustainably into the future,” says Truong.
You can support more health to home bridge-building for families, children, and seniors on May 4th during the Big Day of Giving. Click here to learn more.
Lemon Hill Crop Swap: More than Fresh Produce
Mutual Housing communities are filled with health and wellness activities. In South Sacramento, on Wednesday mornings just behind the front office corridor of Mutual Housing at Lemon Hill is a long-running community building program that subtly impacts the health and well-being of a diverse community.
When you to stroll in, the networking and socializing would surely be well underway. Hmong, Mien, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Chinese are all spoken simultaneously. As the conversations and bartering flows, there are nothing but smiles, laughter, and warm embraces. You’d surely sense pure joy is in the air.
The Healthy Village Senior Group is a program of Iu-Mien Community Services now hosted by Mutual Housing. “It’s a great opportunity for neighbors to meet one another. Many already work alongside each other at nearby community gardens,” explains community organizer Crystal Huynh-Kim, “This iu-mien group was at-risk of once being eliminated but, today through this safe space in Mutual Housing at Lemon Hill, it allows for people to no longer feel lonely. Seniors are improving their social well-being and making lasting community connections.”
The regular exchanges of freshly grown fruits and vegetables such as green beans, garlic, cilantro, bak choy turnips, green onions, leeks, oranges and Asian apples is a welcome sight after garden plots were built within the community over the last several years. “I thought it was great they initiated [the senior social group] here seven years ago because back then we didn’t have our own Mutual Housing at Lemon Hill community garden. Now they help each other best utilize the garden plots. Along with gardening wisdom, they swap seeds, vegetables and fruits,” says Crystal. “Although we don’t all speak the same language, food and gardening is universal,” one resident shared with Crystal.
The group is currently averaging around 45 participants a week, and has become a hub for community building. It provides a safe and comfortable space for seniors from various Southeast Asian communities in the region to come together regularly. “It’s a huge challenge with multi-ethnic communities for the general public to understand their needs,” explains Iu-mien Community Services executive director Kao Thun, “One participant sticks out, saying she feels fortunate to have space to visit her peers so she doesn’t have to feel lonely at home. So, she always comes.”
Mutual Housing at the Highlands Volunteers Help Neighbors Fight Hunger
In a pop culture craving the next viral video, fashion trend, or public figure gaffe, shining a light on everyday heroes continues to be challenging. Mutual Housing California is home to more than 3,200 everyday heroes who do good in their communities despite sometimes enduring past stress and traumatic life circumstances, extremely low-incomes, and a litany of complex challenges that arise from those realities. Many join formal resident leadership programs and bodies that Mutual Housing sponsors. And most others find ways to impact their communities through smaller, informal acts of kindness. Resident members of Mutual Housing at the Highlands are impacting hunger in their community through volunteering at their own weekly food box program.
Food insecurity has many consequences for individuals and families. Because food is literally what fuels our ability to function, improper or inadequate dietary habits can result in physical and emotional health problems. Beyond these individual impacts, there is almost inevitably a societal impact, such as absenteeism, burden on the healthcare system, or even crime. According to the Sacramento Hunger Coalition, “it should be expected that there are well over 50,000 Sacramento County residents who are under-performing on any given day as a result of food insecurity.”²
“A majority of Mutual Housing at the Highlands members have experienced some combination of homelessness, struggles with substance use, navigating mental health diagnoses with low support, or insecurity in food and clean water,” says Carole Cartwright program coordinator with Lutheran Social Services of Northern California. Lutheran Social Services of Northern Services] is one of three service providers partnered with Mutual Housing to create a wrap-around supportive community alongside, Turning Point Community Programs and WellSpace Health Mutual Housing Management, and our community organizer, Courtney Poole. Mutual Housing’s community organizers enhance resident stability by building community, engaging residents and helping residents feel empowered to support each other and collectively to address their unique challenges.
This tightknit community has many resident members who have increased stability in their lives and know how difficult it is to transition from homelessness to total stability. They have embraced the opportunity to support their neighbors around food access. Resident member Randelyn leads a core group of resident volunteers each month after staff pick up and transport large boxes of refrigerated foods, packaged foods, and produce from Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services to their community room. Lutheran Social Services of Northern California generously covers the cost of the program. “Residents have stepped into leadership and taken on this program with grace. Four to five members see the program through, from shopping for the food items, to organizing and putting together bags, and finally to making sure their neighbors pick up the bags. They see the value in having a Sacramento Food Bank distribution right on site, as it is difficult to get out in the community to other food banks,” explains community organizer Courtney Poole. Resident member Jonathan O’Dowd elaborates, “I like volunteering to put together bags of food with other resident members because I like doing something for the community. It’s my way of balancing out the world. I like how it brings the community together for a positive cause, and how it feeds our hunger for a cheap price.” These everyday heroes are addressing hunger in their community but more than that they are inspiring their neighbors to care for future generations of Mutual Housing resident members.
National Search for CEO
Mutual Housing California seeks a dynamic, entrepreneurial and mission-driven Chief Executive Officer to champion and implement the development and operations of high-quality, innovative affordable housing and resident leadership programs for the Sacramento region and beyond.
Click HERE for the full position description.
The Mutual Housing California Board of Directors has hired Raffa to assist with the executive search and transition.
To apply, e-mail resume, cover letter and salary requirements to: firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail applications are required and will only be accepted at this email address). For other inquiries contact:
Jill Fioravanti, Search Consultant, Raffa
Accepting Applications Now for Summer VISTAs
Support Mutual Housing on Big Day of Giving
Mutual Housing California is participating in BIG Day of Giving. Schedule now or share your gift on May 4th, starting at 12:00am midnight, visit bigdayofgiving.org and make a tax-deductible gift of as little as $15 to us or to any of the hundreds of participating nonprofit organizations in our region.
You will have 24 hours to make your donation; all giving will end at 11:59pm on May 4th.
Your donation will ensure that Mutual Housing can continue to provide safe and sustainable housing.
¹ John Hopkins University. April 2017. “Stable Housing” http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-andinstitutes/johns-hopkins-center-to-eliminate-cardiovascular-healthdisparities/about/influences_on_health/stable_housing.html
² Sacramento Hunger Coalition. 2012. “Hunger Hits Home” https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55ad2263e4b0c252acf744f1/t/55af3b77e4b0da5909fc5688/1437547383462/hunger_hits_home+2012.pdf