Andrea Carlstrom, Director of Public Health & Environment & Becky Gray, Director of Chaffee Housing Authority talk about Public Health & Housing with Ken Matthews on KHEN Radio
(Publication Date: 7.26.22)
Overview: Andrea Carlstrom, Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment, and Becky Gray, Director of the Chaffee Housing Authority, talk with Ken Matthews on the Chaffee Housing Report radio show on KHEN 106.9 in Salida, Colo.
The conversation is the first of a two-part transition from the Chaffee Housing Report to a new podcast, We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream, which will focus on upstream health factors such as housing and living conditions, social inequities, and many related policies and systems in Chaffee County, Colo.
In this interview, Andrea and Becky give a broad overview of the complementary work they do in the community, focusing on social determinants of health, including housing affordability. The We Are Chaffee storytelling initiative, which is launching Looking Upstream as a human-forward, conversational storytelling podcast, is part of that work.
SHOW NOTES, LINKS & TRANSCRIPT
Chaffee Housing Authority
Chaffee County Public Health
We Are Chaffee
KHEN 106.9 Community Radio
Chaffee Housing Report host: Ken Matthews
Chaffee Housing Report engineer and producer: Jon Pray
We Are Chaffee graphic and web design: Heather Gorby
Looking Upstream portrait photography: Adam Williams
Note: Transcripts are produced using a transcription service. Although it is largely accurate, minor errors inevitably exist.
[Intro music, singing]
Ken Matthews (00:13): You're listening to KHEN Radio 106.9 FM Salida, Colorado. This is the Chaffee Housing Report. I am your host, Ken Matthews, along with the show's producer and engineer, Jon Pray. Housing and health are intimately entwined. Safe, affordable, reliable housing is the first rung on the ladder to better health and stability. Chaffee County Health and Chaffee County Housing, now, the Chaffee Housing Authority have partnered for years in this concept with the goal of improving health and addressing housing needs in this county. For five plus years, this slot has been the Chaffee Housing Report on KHEN Radio. However, we're transitioning into a new program format called “Looking Upstream,” which will be led by Andrea Carlstrom, director of Chaffee County Public Health and Becky Gray, director of the Chaffee Housing Authority.
(01:11) Next month, Looking Upstream will be including programming that tells housing and health stories of Chaffee County residents, and how health cannot be discussed without addressing housing needs. To speak about this concept, it's my pleasure to have as guests again, Andrea Carlstrom, Chaffee County director of Public Health and Becky Gray, director of Chaffee Housing Authority. Welcome, ladies. Well, let's talk about how the marriage of Chaffee County Public Health and Chaffee County Housing came to be.
Andrea Carlstrom (01:46): Well, Ken, it was back in 2016, as you'll recall, when we formed the Chaffee County Housing Policy and Advisory Committee, and it brought together non-traditional stakeholders in the housing conversation, mainly regarding affordable housing to be thought partners on how we address at that time, what was a housing crisis. And we had the great fortune of developing a Office of Housing after many, many, many meetings. And we had the amazing fortune of securing Becky here who has been just such the subject matter expert and passion behind our affordable housing efforts. And so speed up to a few years past 2016, in 2019, Becky and I had just the amazing opportunities to attend the Colorado Health Symposium. And in that year,. That conference was focused all about housing, health, and equity, and it was just the perfect marriage and we've been going at it ever since
Becky Gray (03:04): Shortly after that conference in fact, Andrea offered an opportunity to me through CDPHE to apply for a health disparities community grant program. That's out of CDPHE's Office of Health Equity.
Ken Matthews (03:18): Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment.
Becky Gray (03:22): And so we collaborated on that narrative, on the application, and we're awarded a grant that has helped us even deepen our relationship and really try to align the Chaffee Housing Authority's policies with equity, as well as social determinants of health.
Andrea Carlstrom (03:43): And at the very beginning, our community partners kind of scratched their heads and said, “Huh, I never really thought about housing and health together, but I'll follow along with you. I'll follow along with your game and see where this leads to.” And I think at that moment in time, we realized that we had a lot of education and outreach that we needed to conduct. And so I think it is really important for listeners to just have some level setting definitions of what we're talking about when we're talking about health, equity, and social determinants of health.
(04:20) So health equity is when everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, has the opportunity to thrive. This requires eliminating barriers like poverty and repairing injustices and systems such as education, health, criminal justice, and transportation. And I think that's really important to highlight the difference in what we're talking about when we are defining equity versus equality. And equity really is meeting people where they're at and determining what services and supports they need to lift them up, regardless of the barriers that they face.
Now, social determinants of health is a public health term in which I think we're all starting to hear a little bit more about in our community. These are the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality of life, risks and outcomes. These include housing, which we're here today to talk about, but also transportation, education, and access to healthy eating and active living. All public health all the time, and that's exactly why we have married our two sectors so that we can synergize our efforts rather than work in silos.
Ken Matthews (05:40): One of the things that before we got together you had given me some information, indicated that there was an annual Colorado Health Foundation Symposium. What were the takeaways that the two of you got from that particular symposium?
Andrea Carlstrom (05:57): Gosh, Becky, remember? We totally geeked out.
Becky Gray (06:00): We did. It was a wonderful experience. I think one of the takeaways was just the understanding that this conversation about housing and health was bigger than just Andrea and I, that there are other institutions making those connections and understanding that long-term health outcomes are impacted by lack of safe, stable, and affordable housing.
(06:23) The other piece that really stuck with me and really resonated is that many policies and systems that are in place were established without consulting those most impacted by them. So there's missing voices in the conversation. And one of the events that we attended held up the idea of using storytelling to help inform policy discussions. And by that, I mean really empowering people with lived experiences to share their stories in a way that can help policymakers understand the impact that their policies are having or could have.
Andrea Carlstrom (07:09): That's right. So we took home the concept of not about us without us, and that has really been incorporated in the work that we do, whether it is embedding equity in all policies, the establishment of the We Are Chaffee Storytelling and Advocacy Movement. So Becky and I attended that session that she was referring to in which there was a beautiful video on I Am Denver and we thought to ourselves, “Well, if Denver can do it, why can't we?” And so after a lot of brainstorming, we have fostered this movement here in the county.
Becky Gray (07:48): You know, one of the things that I believe we're trying to address with the We Are Chaffee Storytelling Movement is a recognition that those who are living in housing insecure situations are not strangers to us, that they're part of our community, and that we're all in this together. And that many of our friends and colleagues are really struggling with their housing situations, but doing so silently because there's a bit of stigma around having that housing insecurity. So elevating these stories and empowering the people who are impacted, the idea is to help reduce the stigma as well as inform the policies that we're discussing.
Andrea Carlstrom (08:31): That's right. And after attending several sessions at this symposium, and since then many trainings, there's a history of certain populations in our society that haven't had a fair shot of securing safe, affordable, and secure housing. Redlining in Denver Metro Area is a great example. Depending on your area code, would be dependent on whether you could secure housing. And so I think that it is something that we need to look back into the history books and make sure that we write those wrongs so that everyone has a fair shot to affordable housing and other social determinants of health moving forward.
Ken Matthews (09:13): Well, I think it's really interesting that these stories are going to be available. Early on, in the history of the Chaffee Housing Report, we tried to reach out to employers and get some of those stories and they would tell me, “You know, I have people who are living in cars, even though they're making pretty good money.” Maybe they are somebody that's middle aged, working someplace, they don't want to live with roommates. And I thought I'd get some of those stories in. I could get the owners in who could relay those stories, but I could not get the workers who were unhoused. And I think there was a stigma to it that they really didn't want that word out there and be waiting on somebody at a later date. “Oh, so I heard your interview and I'm sorry you're living in your car,” or something like that.
Becky Gray (10:04): It's a real person that wants to be the poster child for the community crisis.
Andrea Carlstrom (10:08): I will say that coincidentally, one of the sessions at the Colorado Health Symposium conference was our friends with the Chaffee Housing Trust, and that session highlighted the stories of recent recipients of housing through the trust. I think that was just another experience that truly motivated Becky and I to come back to the county and say, “These stories are moving, and they are the people around us. They are our family members, our neighbors, the people that are serving us at restaurants and at the grocery store. And we need to be doing something about harnessing this energy so that we all can be invested in the housing crisis, but more importantly solutions to address the crisis.”
Ken Matthews (11:01): Well, it's difficult to get some of these voices involved though. I've been involved in some things where we wanted to bring those stories in or have those people participate, but they're working. I remember the first Envision event I went to and I looked at who was in there and they asked, did we have any questions of the panel after they said, “I don't have any questions at you, but I have a question of everyone in here. All retirees, raise your hands.” Two-thirds or three-fourths of the people in there were retirees. “If you work in the service industry, raise your hand.” Two people raise their hand among about 90 people. And so afterwards, I proposed, you should have daycare and food for people.
Andrea Carlstrom (11:51): Most definitely. And so we've had a lot of lessons learned over the years on our programming and how do we attract a diverse representation of our population. And so we've been very intentional with our events of recent years to make sure that there are virtual options, that childcare is available. If over a meal time, we're providing a meal. We're constantly getting feedback on how to reduce those barriers so that more people can attend. And whether they have non-traditional work hours or juggling multiple jobs in our community, we really want to make every effort to hear their voice and get their stories at the table.
Ken Matthews (12:39): I think that's great. Well, I'd like to shift gears a little bit. This grant cycle is this is the fourth grant cycle of the Health Disparities Grant and Program opportunity with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Could you please tell us a bit about the history of the grant and what you see this grant providing in terms of support now and in the future?
Becky Gray (13:05): I am just thrilled to tell you about this grant because it's one of the most exciting things I've ever done in my professional career. This grant is helping us address again, the upstream social determinants of health by implementing community directed policy and system changes within our land use strategies, within our zoning regulations building services, and then also within the development of the Chaffee Housing Authority itself.
The goal of those policy and system changes then are to foster and increase the supply of affordable housing and decrease the displacement of low and moderate income households, as well as decrease the negative health outcomes associated with homelessness, overcrowded living situations, substandard housing conditions, and excessive commuting times or excessive moving houses around
Andrea Carlstrom (14:02): Most definitely. And again, tying together our experience of community stakeholders asking us, “Well, why housing and health?” Well, these negative health outcomes may include cancer, cardiovascular or pulmonary disease, diabetes, and others associated with poverty, displacement, and lack of financial resources. So we're really looking again, upstream, but hoping that the long term beneficiaries of system and policy change will be the residents of Chaffee County. And particularly, those low to moderate income households who presently have limited access to affordable housing.
Becky Gray (14:42): I would add a little more to that too, and say that in addition to individual residents, our local economy will benefit from having stable and consistent housing for people who are employed in this county. So the reaches are far and our goals are audacious, but we're having a very good time doing it, and I think that we're having quite a bit of success through this grant.
Ken Matthews (15:06): Well, I've interviewed the two of you on a number of occasions and there's something that always stuck in my mind. And that was how the educational performance of children who had insecure housing, or even they had secure housing, but they moved a number of time. I guess that's by definition, not secure, but just a move and then another move, how that affects those children and they perform historically much lower than children who are in stable housing situations. That kind of blew me away.
Andrea Carlstrom (15:45): Oh, no doubt. On a, somewhat unfortunately, regular basis, our health department is informed about kiddos that are struggling in school because they don't have heat or hot water. They may have rodents and other nuisances in their dwelling and it breaks our hearts that we don't can't offer them more and can't offer them a more stable environment. How can you thrive in school if you're worried about whether you're going to have a home to come home to at the end of a school day?
Becky Gray (16:20): And you're right, Ken, that does affect their future outcomes. There's been studies particularly done through Head Start and Early Head Start programming that demonstrate that a young person living in toxic stress has increased cortisol levels in their brain that over time impact brain development and brain functioning. So if we're really, as a community, trying to address the upstream social departments of health, the long term outcomes, and just the quality of our community, we want to take care of those kiddos first. Do it now while they're young. And that way, when they are older, they still have the wherewithal to continue contributing to the society and maintaining stable housing on their own.
Ken Matthews (17:10): Well, are there any more highlights of the grant that you want to talk about? I mean, you're basically talking about your two departments have worked collaboratively to address this. You had an educational series. You want to talk a little bit about that educational series? We interviewed a number of people who came in for that educational series. They were top notch people with great ideas and had performed interesting and important projects within their communities. Would you talk a little bit more about the Speaker Series?
Becky Gray (17:52): I would love to. We started the Speaker Series before the pandemic began. And so the vision that we had was every month, for a while, we would bring a subject matter expert into the county and have an event in the evening. We would serve food and provide transportation and childcare, all those things we've already talked about, and listen to experts on topics that related directly to the policies and systems that we need to modify to make it easier to build affordable housing. So that would include different types of zoning strategies, different types of development patterns, looking at ways to address density in appropriate incremental kind of categories, looking at how we can use entrepreneurial thinking in our local community to address these issues creatively. Because nobody's solved this yet, so we need to come up with our own ways.
(18:48) We shifted that also when the pandemic began, we shifted it to an online format, of course, to continue our community's health and made it easier to record those presentations. They're all available on housinghealthchaffee.org. That is the marriage of housing and health. Those are our very first steps. So you can see on that website, a whole series of videos that are an amazing primer for anybody who is about to engage in conversations around land use, building processes, and zoning.
Ken Matthews (19:26): I would add that many of those people were interviewed on here, and you can look at the podcast or listen to the podcast rather by going to khen.org, go to the Chaffee Housing Report and then click on the podcast that you want to listen to. They're not out of date. I mean, none of those concepts are irrelevant at this point in time.
(19:50) You are listening to KHEN Radio 106.9, FM Salida, Colorado. This is the Chaffee Housing Report, soon to be Looking Upstream. And our guest today are Becky Gray, who is the director of the Chaffee Housing Authority and Andrea Carlstrom, who's the director of Chaffee County Public Health. What else?
Andrea Carlstrom (20:14): Well, just to piggyback off of the education series, what I appreciated about the series was that it brought together laypeople like me, for instance, who is not a subject matter expert in housing, as well as the policymakers and people who are in the professional world of planning and development in one place so that we could have meaningful dialogue around the subject matter. So just really want to point that out that, that was our true intent was to bring together a diverse group that could all benefit from the educational topic.
Becky Gray (20:53): And for anyone listening who's interested in data like myself. At each of these events, we did collect feedback from the audience, and we were able to tell that over the course of the Speaker Series, our community's capacity for understanding the topics at hand increased significantly, which again, in a democracy, we have to have an educated citizenry. And so that helps us then shift the needle on our local government decisions by increasing that capacity.
Ken Matthews (21:24): Well, it's interesting when these terms came up, they were new to me. Let's take the term “missing middle”. After it was explained, it was pretty easy to understand, but now that term is being used by the planner. We just interviewed Bill Almquist, who brought that term up in connection with inclusionary housing and how they're shifting that to include the missing middle as an acceptable target for inclusionary housing, because there are people who make more money than would've been in the 80% to 100% area median income, but still cannot find housing that is secure here in the county.
Becky Gray (22:21): Yeah. And I'm really grateful for that feedback. And I'm hearing the same conversation with our county planner and in Buena Vista as well. I think it's important to make the distinction when we talk about missing middle housing, that there's really two ways to talk about it. One is the price point. So what you were talking about, Ken, where there's a certain price point where people don't qualify for subsidized housing, but also can't afford our market. So that's the missing middle price point. There's also, refers to the housing product itself.
(22:55) So we in Salida have a lot of single family homes. In old town Salida, we have some really wonderful six-plexes, et cetera, but primarily we're single family homes with a couple of apartment buildings. In between an apartment and a single family home, there's duplexes, quadplexes, six-plexes, cottage communities. There's all kinds of ways to design the physical product of the house. That's also referred to as missing middle. And that's where the conversation around density in your zoning comes in. So I just wanted to throw that out there so we didn't just take missing middle to mean the price points.
Ken Matthews (23:33): Thank you. Yeah, I remember interviewing Drew Finke, who was, I think from Berkeley. One of the things he talked about was making missing middle housing fit in better by sort of recreating volume of housing that's around it, but yet have more units in it like you're talking about. And I think that's one of the objections that you get is that sometimes some buildings are just seemed to be out of place, but I don't know. My kind of view in Salida is it's a pretty eclectic blend of housing and did not start out here as single family homes only.
Becky Gray (24:27): Yeah. And really that discussion with Drew dovetailed nicely with a couple of other subject matter experts, Bonti Anderson and Kevin Shepherd who spoke about incremental development. I think it's interesting to look at an updated Housing Needs Assessment. It's still in draft form. We're going to release it next week. It's saying that the biggest demand for housing unit size is studios, one bedrooms, and two bedrooms.
So when we're in a county where the majority of our homes are single family and over three bedrooms, we can think about creating missing middle and increasing density without changing the footprint of the house itself. You can take a larger home and divide... And you see this a lot with old Victorians in cities where there's a big old Victorian house and it's divided up into maybe five or six apartments now. That's one approach to increasing density that doesn't negatively impact the form of the neighborhood.
Ken Matthews (25:28): Yeah, sort of the wah of it, the feel that it's got. And that's all over Denver. You know, Central Denver, those areas exist everywhere there. Well, talk about your planner collaborative a little bit more.
Becky Gray (25:48): Yeah. This was a really fun group of people to pull together. So this is all of the paid professional planners in Chaffee County, and really came together around the Speaker Series to help inform the topics that they wanted to find subject matter experts for, as well as to ensure that the planning commissions felt invited and included to all of these events. Out of that discussion, somehow turned to GIS use. That stands for, I believe it's Geospatial Imaging System. This is a dynamic mapping tool that has multiple layers that you can toggle on and off, and you can zoom in and out, and there's lots of data embedded within the map. Presently, in Chaffee County, every jurisdiction has their own GIS system and sharing data between the two is slow, cumbersome, difficult. Sometimes the data comes out in paper form, and that kind of eliminates the... You know, against the idea of what we're trying to do with these kind of tools.
(26:54) So we were able to pay for a study on how to move our present GIS systems into a more collaborative GIS system where all of the jurisdictions in Chaffee County can share data with one another with the click of a button. Why does that matter to housing? It matters because a lot of the cost of housing development happens before the project ever gets approved. So if you think about... I'll just describe a scenario. Pretend I'm a developer and I have a location that I think is going to be perfect for development. The first question I have is, how far away is water and wastewater? If I have a dynamic GIS tool, I click on that link, I already know. I can measure it myself. I don't have to call the planning department and wait for those responses.
(27:41) So it's a way to expedite the process of development. Also, a way for communities to display to developers, what their expectations are. So it's a win-win situation between the public entities and the private entities. And I'm excited to say that's something we're going to continue to push forward in the county in the months to come.
Ken Matthews (28:03): We're about through with our first half hour. Our guests here on the Chaffee Housing Report, soon to be Looking Upstream are Becky Gray and Andrea Carlstrom, directors, respectively of the Chaffee Housing Authority and Chaffee County Public Health. They will be back in the next half hour. Stay tuned. You're listening to KHEN Radio 106.9, FM Salida, Colorado.
(28:30): (musical interlude)
Ken Matthews (29:43): You are listening to KHEN Radio 106.9. FM Salida, Colorado. This is the second half hour of the Chaffee Housing Report, soon to morph into Looking Upstream, which we've talked about in the first half hour and we'll talk about some more. This half hour, our guests remain Becky Gray, who's director of the Chaffee Housing Authority and Andrea Carlstrom, who's the director of Chaffee County Public Health. Welcome back, ladies. Thanks for staying. You've done a lot with this grant, but on the break you told me there's a lot more. So come on.
Becky Gray (30:21): It's so very exciting. I really appreciate the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Office of Health Equity for being so flexible with the funding from this Health Disparities Community Grant Program, because it is able to fund the build out of the Chaffee Housing Authority organization.
(30:42) One of the most exciting pieces, I think that is kind of new to our community is the creation of a Chaffee County continuum of care. I'll pause there to define what continuum of care is. It essentially is a philosophy as well as a structure. There's two definitions, just like missing middle housing, right? The philosophy is that typically households that are experiencing housing insecurity need more than just rent paid. There might be a transportation barrier, there might be childcare needs, there might be education needs or employment needs. And so to provide that continuum of care, you can't look to just one organization or agency in town. You have to pull the whole team around the table and have conversations that help identify what resources each social service or supportive service agency has, what fits the needs of that particular household and how to allocate those resources quickly and effectively, and follow up with the household over time to make sure that the stabilization worked and stuck.
Ken Matthews (31:59): So can I interrupt you just for a moment?
Becky Gray (32:01): Please, yeah.
Ken Matthews (32:01): So if you're saying you're wanting this continuum of care and there's many agencies within the county that may be part of the solution for a given family. What's Department of Human Services' role in this?
Becky Gray (32:15): They're around the table, along with public health. And so Vista Health, Chaffee Hospitality Inc., which is our homeless outreach team. I'm not going to keep listing them because I know I'll forget something and then I'll feel bad, but there's a whole host of organizations that are now meeting twice a month. The first time in the month, we address business things like, do we have agreements between us all signed and things like this. And then the second meeting of the month, we literally talk about the people who have agreed to be talked about to make sure that we bring the best services to bear for that household.
Ken Matthews (32:58): While I'm on this topic, earlier in the last half hour, we talked about systems that impact people, and one is the criminal justice system. And often, when people get in trouble with the criminal justice system, it's been sort of a one-size-fits-all approach. People get fined that maybe can't pay fines, then they don't pay those fines, and then they get jailed for not paying those fines, on and on and on. And I'm going to plug something that I'm really passionate about, and that's restorative justice. I would certainly like to see restorative justice in some of these conversations so that we could maybe address dealing with maybe a lower level of intervention that maybe stops for example, the school to prison pipeline.
(34:02) When we have criminalizing teenage behavior in high schools, and that's their first strike, that then is used against them later on. I'm really not so much trying to promote that idea, it's to talk about how many moving parts there can be with people who are housing challenged or are on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder, and our criminal justice system doesn't always work for those people.
Becky Gray (34:36): Well, I'm happy to tell you that in the past, I had started conversations with the previous director of restorative justice, a full circle restorative justice, about how we might be able to use the model of restorative justice in landlord and tenant relationship disputes. And so once you have a new director in place, I look forward to picking that conversation back up.
Ken Matthews (35:03): We're doing interviews now.
Becky Gray (35:04): And figuring out how to embed it into at least Chaffee Housing Authorities' leases. If not, try to promote that through our community.
Andrea Carlstrom (35:12): And historically, I think just recidivism has been on our minds and how do we build a community that sets people up for success and to thrive in health and wellness rather than to kind of get back where they had been in the past. Full circle restorative justice has been at the table in many of our efforts in the past, and I think this is just a golden opportunity to bring other thought partners to the continuum of care so that it's not an exhaustive list that we're continuously adding thought partners as themes are detected through this process. We know that we have gaps in our systems and the COC, this continuum of care will help enlighten us as to what those are and how do we together come up with solutions to address some of our community's toughest issues.
Ken Matthews (36:06): Well, as a recovering attorney, I recognize how many parts of our legal system with an advocacy, a win and a lose approach, do not really solve human problems. Often, they create human problems. Even though there's a resolution to the conflict, it doesn't mean it resolved all the human issues, but created some generally.
Andrea Carlstrom (36:35): And over the years, we have gained traction in that arena, especially around mental health and addiction. Looking at our Regional Assessment Center grand opening at the beginning of May, this is going to give hope and recovery to lives that haven't had that opportunity in our beloved valley in the past. Similarly, looking at how we are best stewards of the opioid settlement funding that's coming down. We are poised in a really good position here in our county and our region to really make a difference in the lives of people who get caught in these systems time and time again. We have a regional substance abuse coalition that is addressing some of these issues as well. So rest assured, we have identified that there are significant gaps. And together, we're going to be part of the solution to address those.
Ken Matthews (37:29): I'm pretty proud of our attorney general actually. He's been somebody who's gone out and gotten money. For other projects, we file a civil suit, recover from that civil suit, and then use that money to address issues. He's supported restorative justice. And so now what I'm hearing is the opioid funds are going to be used for something other than enforcement.
Andrea Carlstrom (37:57): That's right. We want to be part of the solution.
Ken Matthews (38:00): Yeah.
Andrea Carlstrom (38:00): So looking at how do we build and reward a workforce that is trained to skillfully help these people that have gotten caught into the systems. We're looking at anti-stigma campaigns and how we can lift people up rather than tear them down when they most need us. And then similarly, looking at youth prevention and how do we, to Becky's point, start early so that our youth are more resilient when they're faced with our society's most challenges.
Becky Gray (38:35): Would you say that you're looking upstream there, Andrea?
Andrea Carlstrom (38:38): I would say that I am looking upstream.
Ken Matthews (38:42): Well, I'm sorry, I diverted this a little bit, but I think it does sort of demonstrate how broad the continuum of care concept can go and how it can maybe a little more difficult to manage, but also be a more fine tuned result when it's over.
Becky Gray (39:05): And more sustainable result as well.
Ken Matthews (39:07): Yes.
Becky Gray (39:07): So the recidivism isn't... You know, we don't want to see people moving in and out of housing insecurity. Once you get a household secure, we want to keep them there.
Ken Matthews (39:16): Is there anything else with the continuum of care that you want to talk about?
Becky Gray (39:19): Just a bit, yeah. I won't belabor it, but I mentioned that there's a philosophy and a structure. The structure of a continuum of care literally comes from the federal Department of HUD, Housing and Urban Development. So continuum of care is also a program model and a way to obtain grant funding to address the issues. So right now, while we are a fledgling continuum of care or COC, if you want to get into the acronyms-
Andrea Carlstrom (39:48): I think you should give yourself a little bit more credit than that, Becky.
Becky Gray (39:52): I mean, really doing great. This is under the leadership of Becky Longberg right now, our housing navigator, and she's done a fantastic job of pulling together all these organizations and getting the legalities out of the way. And I believe at their next meeting, they're literally going to start talking about households that are in need. So that's really fantastic fast work in the last six months.
(40:13) In that work, they're collecting data and they're working towards using a database that's statewide. Once we plug into the statewide database, Chaffee County's data now goes all the way up through the state and the federal government and impacts funding allocation for our region as well. So this is a foundational piece of any kind of supportive housing infrastructure that a community needs. Most people don't know about it, but without it, we miss out on a whole host of opportunities through the federal government and through our state government.
Ken Matthews (40:50): Well, at one point in time, there was a project that was proposed. I think it was called Poncha Crossing or something like-
Becky Gray (40:59): Oh, Mesa Crossings.
Ken Matthews (41:01): Mesa Crossings, and it was going to provide housing and there was going to be certain programs that were housed in the same building where people were living.
Becky Gray (41:12): That's right.
Ken Matthews (41:13): And that didn't occur.
Becky Gray (41:15): Thank you for bringing it up. It's an excellent example as to why a COC is absolutely essential. So that project was to be funded by low-income tax credits. So very specific funding stream, and it included what we call permanent supportive housing. So that's housing for people who need some type of permanent support. Typically, we see that with people who are in recovery or people who have some other type of barrier to maintaining on their own.
Becky Gray (41:46): When we applied, we did not have a COC and we did not have any data collected. And that was one of the biggest barriers to getting that project was the state looked at it and said, “It doesn't look like you have the need there, nor do you have a continuum of care organized to provide the supportive services.” So that's why it became a hot topic for us in internally to make sure that the COC gets lifted off the ground and plugged into the statewide continuum of care so that data can get reported out officially and help us in future funding applications.
Ken Matthews (42:22): So not a concept that's been given up, you're just having to... It sounds like you had to get more data, more skill as an opportunity to go back for that.
Becky Gray (42:35): I think in a way that project just had the cart before the horse a little bit.
Andrea Carlstrom (42:39): And the partners are still here.
Becky Gray (42:41): Yup, we're all still here.
Andrea Carlstrom (42:42): Department of Human Services, Public Health, and Solvista Health are all committed to seeing this project to fidelity, and we are waiting for the next opportunity to do so. And the COC will only strengthen our ability to provide services and supports in this type of housing endeavor.
Ken Matthews (43:05): It sounds like great progress, but I keep interrupting you.
Becky Gray (43:05): Very exciting. I think that's all I wanted to say. Just that it's both the philosophy around wraparound services, but it's also an institutional structure that's pretty necessary for funding applications and for data and planning purposes as well.
Andrea Carlstrom (43:17): One realization that I've had at the beginning of our COC development is, and it's no surprise to our community, we've had a lot of turnover in our community over the last two and a half years. There are a lot of new people to our community or to their new jobs. And looking around the table at the COC, I acknowledge that and we have a lot of information sharing and relationship building to do. I'm calling this chapter of living with COVID our reconnection phase. I think this is time for us to come together and get out of our silos. Hopefully, get away from wherever our offices that we've been working in for two and a half years and coming together in a meaningful and intentional way so we can rebuild the systems that were really strong pre pandemic and have an opportunity to get stronger now in the stage of COVID, where we're at today.
Ken Matthews (44:20): Well, I have things on a list here, Chaffee Housing Authority, do you want to talk anything about that?
Becky Gray (44:27): Well, I guess I'm more than happy to. Yes, please. Chaffee Housing Authority was born in 2020 through an intergovernmental agreement between the City of Salida, Town of Buena Vista, and Chaffee County. It operates with its own board of directors and is considered a political subdivision of the state. However, we hold our member jurisdictions pretty close. So while we have a board of directors, we really also keep those elected bodies very well informed.
Ken Matthews (44:57): Well, don't the political bodies have members on the board of directors?
Becky Gray (45:00): Correct, yes. In fact, they appoint two members each. The county gets three appointments. And then also the administrators from each of those jurisdictions participates in the board of directors. So that's a very exciting opportunity for us. It opens up a whole host of tools. So creating the Chaffee Housing Authority has opened up a whole host of tools for us locally, in terms of partnering with private developers. That includes some tax relief when you're partnering with the Chaffee Housing Authority. It also includes advocacy, obtaining state and federal funding, and other non-traditional sources of funds, like funds through a community development financial institution, which are a lot more attractive to development. They bring down the cost.
(45:52) So we have a really exciting opportunity here to build out an organization that empowers. Those most impacted by the crisis is responsive to their experiences in our policies and our activities. I'm really proud to say that one of our first policy adoptions is going to be around diversity, equity, and inclusion in all of our policies. And then as we build out the rest of our policies and procedures, we will test them against that diversity, equity, and inclusive policy.
(46:31) This grant has allowed us to provide our website in both English and Spanish. It has helped us develop relationships with people who are multilingual that can be interpreters for us, or translate documents for us when we have customers or clients come into our office that speak a different language. And we have really wonderful headsets now that we can wear when we are hosting in-person events. If an audience member would like to hear that live event in the language of their heart and of their home, they can dawn a headset and we will have an interpreter on site to help translate the language into their home language.
Ken Matthews (47:18) That's awesome.
Becky Gray (47:19): Pretty neat, exciting. All the programs we're developing in Chaffee Housing Authority are going to be available in both English and Spanish, because we do know there is a small but very important Spanish speaking population in Chaffee County and currently, most things are all English. So as we build it out, we're going to keep that equity and diversity in mind.
Andrea Carlstrom (47:41): What I really appreciate of the Housing Authority is it's nimbleness and it's open-mindedness to data. Recently, Becky and the team shared with me some data sets from tenants and landlords, and it was really eye-opening. And I think that, that information will help drive the priorities of the Housing Authority. And so like in anything public health, our Housing Authority is also data driven and has the ability to be flexible and address the needs that do rise to the top. And so I really look forward to future opportunities, whether it's through community forums, to get the feedback from landlords and tenants, so that we are informed in the programming that we develop.
Ken Matthews (48:34): You are listening to KHEN Radio 106.9 FM. This is the Chaffee Housing Report, soon to be Looking Upstream. Our guests today are Andrea Carlstrom, director of Chaffee County Department of Public Health and Becky Gray, director of Chaffee Housing Authority. You had a thought that you were getting ready to go into before I had to do a station ID, Andrea.
Andrea Carlstrom (49:02): That's right. So one of the things that I really appreciate with the Housing Authority is that it can be flexible and nimble enough to adapt its priorities depending on the data that's collected. And so recently, Becky shared with me some data from some surveys that went out to tenants and landlords, and that data is going to drive those priorities of the Housing Authority. So like all things public health, our Housing Authority has taken the approach to take the data and make informed and intentional decisions on where it can gain the most traction in our community.
Ken Matthews (49:45): Thank you. It does makes sense.
Andrea Carlstrom (49:47): Totally makes sense.
Ken Matthews (49:49): Are there any innovations that you want to talk about? I've heard about home sharing. Is there anything that started out? I think it's Sage Generation maybe, and then kind of morphed, and what's going on with that now?
Andrea Carlstrom (50:02): So home sharing is just part of the solution. We know that it is not going to be the solution for everyone. But in this case, we're piloting a home share program that again is a product of the marriage between our housing and health initiatives. It had, at one point, been housed within Sage Generation, a former nonprofit here in our community, working to ensure that older adults in our community have what they need to thrive in health and wellness in the environment of their choice as referred to as aging in place. And we were successful. I say, we, I guess I was on the board of directors of Sage Generation many moons ago. And we were able to secure three relationships through that program.
(50:54) However, lessons learned, we have identified that in order to really carry out a strong home sharing program, we need a full-time coordinator. So we have secured some funding and have put our heads together and our home sharing coordinator is starting up. And so we're really excited to build this program from the ground up. It's going to pair home providers, older adults with space in their home in exchange for some light work and basic services from home seekers who can be of any age. So we're starting out with that demographic and then we're going to consistently assess what the needs are in our community and hopefully build the home share program from the ground up.
Ken Matthews (51:48): That sounds like a piece of the puzzle.
Andrea Carlstrom (51:51): We sure hope so. We have anecdotal data from throughout our county, and it does seem like there is an appetite for this type of program. We're really excited to see where it goes in partnership with the Housing Authority who will be conducting background checks, making sure that we have the right kind of checks and balances, aiding and vetting of both home providers and home seekers. And then we get to kind of do the social work aspect of matchmaker of home providers and seekers. So this is not going to be again, for everyone. However, we do hope that it's one slice of the pie to address the housing needs in our community.
Ken Matthews (52:34): So if someone was interested in that program, who would they contact and what phone number or email address would they use?
Andrea Carlstrom (52:41): Well, our home share coordinator is Rand Conroe, and we haven't gotten him a phone number yet. So our main phone number at Public Health would be the way to go. And that number is 719-539-4510 and his email is email@example.com.
Becky Gray (53:07): One of the unique features of this program, I think is we have discussed we want quality matches more than quantity matches. We understand that the need here in Chaffee County is to get people into houses as quickly as possible because there's so much need, but we also understand the need of that home provider needs to be paramount. And that's why this project is sitting a little bit more in public health than it is in housing. We're still doing background checks and eligibility selection criteria, things like this, but the meat of the program really sits with Rand in Public Health because it is about the host home owner and their ability to thrive and age in place.
Ken Matthews (53:55): Well, this could be potentially a very important program in this county because, what do we have? 35%-40% of the county is 65 or older.
Becky Gray (54:07): And growing.
Ken Matthews (54:07): And growing. It includes two of us in this room, and it's not you ladies.
Andrea Carlstrom (54:14): Aging's so cool. Everybody's doing it.
Becky Gray (54:17): Even us.
Ken Matthews (54:19): And there's no assisted living in our county. I don't know where the nearest assisted living is, probably maybe Cañon City.
Becky Gray (54:30): I believe so.
Ken Matthews (54:32): So it's a need that's not being addressed on that larger scale of assisted living or other sort of retirement communities. And so you're doing what you can do and we'll see how that goes.
Andrea Carlstrom (54:47): It's a win-win to tell you the truth. And again, kind of circling back around to this concept of the marriage between housing and health, our Public Health Department several years ago, identified the needs for older adults in our community because of the increasing demographic. And so we have listened to our community and reviewed the data, and we launched an Aging Well program in Public Health over the last year, despite our pandemic response. And so there's going to be three sort of avenues to meet the needs of older adults in our community through this program.
(55:26) Age Strong Chaffee is our Aging Well coalition as well as our home share program. And then the third leg of this stool is us exploring the adoption of Ark Valley Helping Hands, which Ken, I know you are very familiar with. That's also providing a little help to older adults in their home so that they can age in place. And so we're really excited about our aging work. And again, can't do it without our housing friends.
Ken Matthews (55:57): Well, I want to thank you for being here. Since I'm a short timer, they call it in the military, I'm going to take an opportunity to just editorialize a little bit. John and I have produced over 105 shows here during our five plus years on the Chaffee Housing Report. Unfortunately, the housing crisis has become worse and not better since we began the Chaffee Housing Report, but I do feel comforted by the fact that many talented people are working on this issue. We need to be consistent and have predictable sources of funding for housing. There is increased funding for housing in the state in the federal level, but not all of that applies to the county level. There needs to be a consistent predictable source of funding for housing in Chaffee County, and there must be housing or the crisis will be here, continue to persist and increase.
(57:03) The housing challenged our friends, our neighbors, the people who take care of our children, and our elderly who teach our children and lead our schools, who build and repair and maintain our roads, utilities, infrastructure, and public buildings. They work for our county, our municipalities, our hospitals, save us when we encounter fires and other emergencies, prepare food and serve us in restaurants, bars, and shops. They police our streets, our county roads. In summary, they are us.
(57:39) And this problem needs to be solved by funding that our entire community contributes to. Keep this in mind in future months, when a funding solution is proposed, don't say, “This is not my problem.” The future of our community relies on solving the housing crisis in Chaffee County. It is our problem. It is not the time for blame, it's the time for action. The quality of life that you were born in when you were born here in Chaffee County or came here to experience this wonderful place is threatened. Be part of the solution and support and vote for housing funding initiatives when they are presented. You've been listening to the Chaffee Housing Report on KHEN radio 106.9 FM Salida. Thanks for listening.
(58:34): [outro music, singing]