A friendly greeting can go a long way to making someone’s struggles a little easier.
That’s why Kara Cuevas, a community health worker with DevNW, starts with kindness in every conversation with residents of affordable housing units in Benton and Linn counties.
“It’s an intrinsic ability that everyone has inside them to help others,” Cuevas said.
It was also the impetus for integrating health and housing services by DevNW, a local non-profit housing authority.
In 2016, DevNW became the first community development organization in Corvallis to use housing as a platform to deliver health services through funding from InterCommunity Health Network’s Delivery System Transformation Committee.
The project showcases an innovative solution encouraged by funding from the region’s coordinated care organization. In its first year, the Health & Housing Planning Initiative resulted in more than 700 health and service referrals, intervention and prevention of nearly 100 evictions and health programming for 600 residents.
Based on this success, the program was operationalized and continues with two community health workers, including Cuevas. She relates to the residents she helps with issues such as completing enrollment documents, distributing food and other donations and assisting with scheduling medical appointments.
“I’m a single mother,” she said. “I have a lot of the same life experience as the residents.”
That makes it easy for her to come along beside them to help problem-solve. She also relies on a network of organizations she’s familiar with through her community health worker training. Cuevas seeks to help people feel self-sufficient, engaged in their health and sustained in their housing.
She teaches them it’s okay to seek out support and rely on others.
“You can do this,” Cuevas said. “I can show you the way.”
Learn more about DevNW’s Health Worker & Resident Services Program.