Women of the Northwest

Viviana Matthews Changing Lives: The Impact of Clatsop Community Action

July 02, 2024 Viviana Matthews Episode 97
Viviana Matthews Changing Lives: The Impact of Clatsop Community Action
Women of the Northwest
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Women of the Northwest
Viviana Matthews Changing Lives: The Impact of Clatsop Community Action
Jul 02, 2024 Episode 97
Viviana Matthews

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Clatsop Community Action

 (503) 325-1400 (volunteer or information)
Veterans Housing Assistance
Energy Assistance
Donate to Food Bank

In this episode of Women of the Northwest, host Viviana Matthews shares her remarkable journey from Buenos Aires to becoming the Executive Director of Clatsop Community Action (CCA). Viviana discusses the essential services CCA provides, including housing, food, and energy assistance, and highlights the importance of the Head Start program in promoting children's well-being. She emphasizes the significance of educating the community about CCA's work and the need for increased funding to continue their impactful services. This conversation sheds light on the challenges and rewards of working in social services to uplift those in need. 

Subscribe to the Women of the Northwest podcast for inspiring stories and adventures.
Find me on my website: jan-johnson.com

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Clatsop Community Action

 (503) 325-1400 (volunteer or information)
Veterans Housing Assistance
Energy Assistance
Donate to Food Bank

In this episode of Women of the Northwest, host Viviana Matthews shares her remarkable journey from Buenos Aires to becoming the Executive Director of Clatsop Community Action (CCA). Viviana discusses the essential services CCA provides, including housing, food, and energy assistance, and highlights the importance of the Head Start program in promoting children's well-being. She emphasizes the significance of educating the community about CCA's work and the need for increased funding to continue their impactful services. This conversation sheds light on the challenges and rewards of working in social services to uplift those in need. 

Subscribe to the Women of the Northwest podcast for inspiring stories and adventures.
Find me on my website: jan-johnson.com

[00:01] Speaker Jan: Are you looking for an inspiring listen, something to motivate you? You've come to the right place. Welcome to Women of the Northwest, where we have conversations with ordinary women leading extraordinary lives. Motivating, inspiring, compelling. Hello everyone. Welcome to Women of the Northwest. My guest today is Viviana Matthews. Hi, Viviana.

[00:24] Vivianna: Hi.

[00:26] Speaker Jan: Good morning. Glad to have you here. Tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you lived here?

[00:31] Vivianna: Thank you for having me. I been in the Pacific Northwest since 2002. And prior to that I lived in LA for twelve years. And prior to that I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

[00:50] Speaker Jan: Oh, in Argentina. Oh, that's interesting. My youngest daughter just became a nun and her order is from Argentina.

[01:00] Vivianna: Oh, is that right?

[01:01] Speaker Jan: So who knows, she may end up down there at some point too, maybe. Yeah, that's interesting. And how did you end up in the states? From there?

[01:10] Vivianna: From the states, very complex and easier, I guess. I was a college student and then I had the opportunity to come to the state with a student visa. And when I got here, I was going to English school in LA, in Pasadena. And then my good friend from school told me about this program. It's a green card lottery program. And I entered my name and lucky me, before my first year anniversary in the states, I received my green card and I thought that was a sign of me to stay in America because I felt the moment I landed in LA, at that time I felt like I was home. So I thought that's a huge sign for me to stay. So I stayed, I stayed in LA for twelve years until I met my husband. And my husband is from Pacific Northwest, he's from, he was born in Seattle, but he was raised from the time he was twelve years old in Nacelle, Washington. And that's how I end up in this area.

[02:21] Speaker Jan: I see, huh, interesting. Yeah, well, this is a lot different than LA.

[02:28] Vivianna: I love it here. That's why after 22 years, 23 years almost, I'm still here.

[02:35] Speaker Jan: Yeah, yeah. My son lives in North Hollywood and every time I go down there it's like, okay, this is the last time I'm coming down there. Yeah, yeah. Which then I go back again.

[02:47] Vivianna: It has its positive sides and also the challenging sides. Right, like everywhere else.

[02:53] Speaker Jan: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, it's interesting. So you work for Clatskanie Community Action. Tell me about that.

[02:59] Vivianna: Yeah. Since I came to this area, I have always worked for community Action agency. I started at the community action team out of St. Helens, but I was working for the head Start program in Warrenton and I did that for almost eleven years. And after eleven years, I transferred to Community Clatsop of community action as a case manager for five, between four or five years. And then I became the deputy director for a few years. And then in 2019, right before pandemic, just a few months, I became the executive director in October of 2019. That's when I had the privilege of leading the agency.

[03:48] Speaker Jan: Yeah, yeah. I worked for Head Start a little bit, too. Yeah.

[03:53] Vivianna: Love that program.

[03:54] Speaker Jan: Had my own preschool along the way. But yeah, head Start is just such a great, great program.

[04:01] Vivianna: An amazing program that we really don't speak much about.

[04:04] Speaker Jan: Yeah, yeah, tell us that's more about a head start. That's, you know, such a great program. And it's, I don't know that everybody understands how it works.

[04:12] Vivianna: Well, the head start is the well-being of the child and their family. So the head Start program, you can say, is a very, it's a preschool program. However, it addresses a lot of the needs of the child for the child and the family to become self-sufficient. So we work in, it's the overall health of a child, from medical to dental to the environmental to anything for the child to be successful when they enter into kindergarten and beyond. There is a lot of studies out there how head start has helped the levels of education. There is a difference between a child who goes to head start and a child who doesn't have, and then there's a lot of studies that can prove that. So I strongly, strongly support head start and an amazing program, and we just need to have a little bit more funding that Borgton could continue.

[05:16] Speaker Jan: Always funny, right?

[05:17] Vivianna: Always funny.

[05:18] Speaker Jan: But I think what I enjoyed was doing the home visits with the families and finding out about them and where they were at, what you could do, you know, take them, just training them how to be parents more and just how important education is. Parents really don't think that they play a part in that.

[05:39] Vivianna: Yeah. Well, because they have so many things that are happening in their families. Right. So the head start program not only helps a child, it helps a parent or help whoever takes care of that little one, and they help them with set up goals and, and not only set up goals, but accomplish those goals and learn. And there's so many different programs that comes out of that that it's upstanding.

[06:06] Speaker Jan: Yeah. And when I was working there last, too, they'd really put an effort into the teachers, the curriculums that they were using to be really standardized and more to meld into what was expected at school.

[06:22] Vivianna: Right?

[06:22] Speaker Jan: Yeah.

[06:23] Vivianna: Yeah. For sure.

[06:23] Speaker Jan: Yeah. So that had made a big jump there, too.

[06:26] Vivianna: They did, yeah.

[06:27] Speaker Jan: What kind of services does clouds of community offer?

[06:30] Vivianna: Well, I always say with Clatsop Community Action, there are two different rounds. Right. Well, first of all, I have to speak a little bit about the umbrella of it, and that's why our logo is an umbrella, because we do housing, we do food, we do the energy assistance program for the entire county, and we also do the veterans. We have a contract with the Clatsop county to provide services for all veterans. So the veteran service officer is housed under CCA. So with housing, we do homeless prevention, which is we help families and individuals to continue being housed with rental assistance and other programs that we have. And then we also have the rapper rehousing program that it helps people who are in shelter to obtain permit housing. Or we also have pretty soon two shelters in Clatsop county, one in Astoria, which is the Columbia Inn, and the one that is coming on in Seaside, the Esperanza micro shelter. And about 80% of what we do is homeless prevention, and only about 20% to 25% it's working with the unsheltered population.

[07:48] Speaker Jan: And when you say you're working with prevention, what does that look like?

[07:52] Vivianna: It looks like from rental assistance to utility assistance to personal care. For instance, if somebody owns food stamp does not pay for personal care items. So we have that program. So mainly it's rental assistance, financial assistance for people to stay house.

[08:17] Speaker Jan: Mm hmm. And be able to find housing.

[08:20] Vivianna: That would be something like the unsheltered population. We do help people find housing, locate housing, which is a very complex situation, not only in Clatskanie, but the entire country. Just being able to have that affordability, it's. It's very challenging.

[08:41] Speaker Jan: Right, right. And the prices of rents just keeps going up. And it's just. It is hard.

[08:49] Vivianna: Just people are able to be sustainable.

[08:51] Speaker Jan: Yeah.

[08:51] Vivianna: Yeah.

[08:52] Speaker Jan: Just for the average person, it's hard.

[08:55] Vivianna: Well, somebody needs to be making $27 an hour to be able to afford rent in Clatsop county right now, between 27 and $30 an hour. And the minimum wage in Clatsop county is, what, 15? And people don't have full time jobs, so forget about benefits.

[09:13] Speaker Jan: Right, right. And so, yeah, there's a lot to navigating all of that.

[09:18] Vivianna: Yeah. However, though, I do see an increase in housing inventory coming within the next two, three years. I see an increase of job opportunities with better paying jobs. So I do see a light at the end of the tunnel, or maybe because I do have to stay positive to be able to do the work that we do at CCA.

[09:40] Speaker Jan: I think in any kind of a job like that, it could really take you down, you know, just seeing. Just working with poverty or just hard situations, you know?

[09:49] Vivianna: Yeah. It's not for the weak ones. It's not. We have a lot of. Unfortunately, we have a lot of turnaround with the case managers because it's a very challenging job.

[10:02] Speaker Jan: You almost need some kind of training and support to be, you know, for your own mental health to work with that as well.

[10:12] Vivianna: Right. We do offer, you know, mental health services for our people who work directly with people in need. You know, we try to do the best we can to provide as many benefits as possible for the people who work at CCA. However, working with so many challenges, it's sometimes exhausted. So then we just want to make sure that we are taking care of each other.

[10:39] Speaker Jan: Right. Yeah. Because it is emotionally exhausting.

[10:41] Vivianna: It is. Especially when you already, you also have a life and you also have a family, and you also have things that.

[10:48] Speaker Jan: Coming up you almost have to kind of categorize.

[10:52] Vivianna: Yeah. That's what I always tell people. If you are good about compartmentalized items and issues, you'll be good at CCA. But if you are not able to compartmentalize that, that takes a lot of art to be able to do that.

[11:07] Speaker Jan: Yeah, it does. And I. Yeah, it's a learned thing.

[11:10] Vivianna: It's a learn. And also, when our case managers meet with our clients, I would say that we are just tools because we hear the stories, but we empathize to those stories, but we're not able to share our stories with them unless there is a coalition there. And that's the best way to compartmentalize situations.

[11:37] Speaker Jan: And I'm sure you have a lot of overlap, and I think Clatsop county is really good about other services working together and with the harm, or Casa.

[11:47] Vivianna: Yeah, I was at Casa for ten years, but then I got fired because they have a new regulation where people who work in social services are not able to be Casas.

[12:01] Speaker Jan: Oh, there's a conflict because the conflict of interest.

[12:05] Vivianna: Of the conflict of interest.

[12:06] Speaker Jan: My husband is a Casa. He's been Casa for years. Yeah.

[12:09] Vivianna: Yeah. I was a Casa in Clatsop county, and I missed it, but, yeah. Yeah. Anyway, yes, we work very well with the community partners, with other shelters, like helping hands and the county, the cities. You know, we are not with the police department. We are not able to do our work. We are not able to do our work without their support.

[12:32] Speaker Jan: Right.

[12:33] Vivianna: It really, really does take a village.

[12:36] Speaker Jan: And, you know, if you're all working together, then, you know, there's always some overlap, but everybody has their own specific, you know, area that they're working on. And if you know those things together, you know, then it's just.

[12:48] Vivianna: Yeah, for sure.

[12:49] Speaker Jan: Yeah. Yeah. And then, you know, what services other people are providing. So it helps you balance out what's, you know.

[12:56] Vivianna: Yeah, you say it right?

[12:57] Speaker Jan: Yeah. Yeah. What's your greatest need?

[13:01] Vivianna: You know, probably the greatest need for us will be. There's not that there's so many, but when you say greatest, I just have to, to me probably is educate people. What CCA does, not only the people that need our services, but also the people that might be able to help us obtain more funding or obtain other things, probably educating the overall population of what CCA does, that's, to me, that will open the doors not only to people who need us, but also people who might be able to help us. To me, that's the greatest need. I know that a lot of people who are in struggling are on footsteps. They do know about our services, but our greatest need is how we send out the message to all community members. What CCA does, that's the greatest need.

[14:01] Speaker Jan: What do you do currently?

[14:02] Vivianna: Well, we do social media, very little. But because of capacity, we have to put all our efforts into bringing more fundings and deliver those fundings. There's not a lot of, haven't been able to put a lot of efforts into the PR.

[14:19] Speaker Jan: Right.

[14:20] Vivianna: The PR aspect of social service.

[14:23] Speaker Jan: Well, and again, it takes time, you know, to have, you almost need a.

[14:27] Vivianna: Person that's dedicated to dedicate to that. And I, you know, if I have to choose between fundings, that probably it's going to go to direct services. Right. And it's not that we don't, we really do, but it's like you have to choose your bottles, I guess.

[14:44] Speaker Jan: Right.

[14:44] Vivianna: And right now, the PR, it's, it has gone to the back burner, but it's something that we really, I really have to put a lot more efforts into that because, as I said, if the public knows about it, it opens door to people that might need our services and also open the door to people that might be able to help us.

[15:06] Speaker Jan: Right. Yeah. Yeah. It's two sided. Where does your funding come from now?

[15:10] Vivianna: Well, our funding is very diverse. So we have federal funding, we have state funding, we have regional funding, we have city fundings and grantors and donations. So.

[15:23] Speaker Jan: Yeah, because you're a nonprofit seeker.

[15:25] Vivianna: We're a nonprofit so we can get any type of fundings that they're out there, we seek out, as long as we use the fundings to meet the need of the community, because that's what a community action agency is. It's an agency that it's there to address the need of the community.

[15:44] Speaker Jan: Yeah, yeah.

[15:46] Vivianna: And the need of the community right now it's housing and food. And, of course, our veterans. I strongly, strongly support our veterans, and we all do at CCA. So we want to make sure that we help assist every veteran possible in our community with their families there. You know, they're entitled to.

[16:08] Speaker Jan: Right, right. I did an interview with Debbie Little with the veterans. And do you take volunteers?

[16:17] Vivianna: We do, especially at the food bank. At the food bank, we're very short-term volunteers, and fortunately, our volunteers, our main volunteers are aging, and we have not seen a lot of volunteers that are, you know, middle aged. So then that's going to be a big gap within the next five to ten years.

[16:40] Speaker Jan: What hours would that be? What kind of a. What kind of commitment would that be?

[16:45] Vivianna: Do you have? You know, the food bank, even if you have a couple hours a week, that will be enough. Yeah. Our business is always open Monday through Friday, regular hours. But if anybody wants to volunteer, just connect with CCA.

[17:01] Speaker Jan: Yeah, that would be great. Okay. I'm sure there's people looking for places to fit in, and especially if it's just a few hours here and there. And that really makes a difference, too.

[17:12] Vivianna: It does make a difference, yeah, absolutely.

[17:14] Speaker Jan: And I'm sure you probably, when they do the homeless connect, you show up there or, you know.

[17:20] Vivianna: So CCA facilitates project homeless connect. We put it together.

[17:24] Speaker Jan: Yeah. When I work for Coast Pregnancy Clinic, and then I was part of that.

[17:29] Vivianna: I remember that. Yeah, that's funny you bring that up. I found the newspaper article about Project Homeless Connect ten years ago. Oh, yeah. Project Homeless Connect started in 2010. Jessica McLean, a CCA case manager, very good friend of mine. She put the event together, the first one, and then we continue, which also.

[17:54] Speaker Jan: Takes a lot of work.

[17:56] Vivianna: It does take a lot of work, but it's energy. But it's not only energy, but I feel like I love proceed homeless Connect because it's one of those events where we connect the community. We connect the community that needs our services. We connect the providers, the other agencies, among themselves, and we also. And in my private life, I feel connected to Jessica, who passed away in 2011.

[18:23] Speaker Jan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's just, I found it interesting just to be able to connect with the other providers. As well, you know, to do that and just to see, I don't know, just actually connecting with people who need the services and, you know, getting haircuts or getting services, things that they need. You know what? I don't know, it's just.

[18:47] Vivianna: Yeah, we continue doing that.

[18:48] Speaker Jan: Yeah, it's great.

[18:49] Vivianna: Actually. We also put in an event that it's for veterans only, and that's gonna be September 5 at the seaside convention center, and this is gonna be our first one. So it's. It's very similar to project Homelands Connect. However, it's not only for people who are in shelter, but it's for anybody who is veteran, no matter their income.

[19:12] Speaker Jan: And what kind of things will you have there?

[19:14] Vivianna: So we just put in the event together. We haven't finalized, but it's mainly to provide services to our veterans.

[19:21] Speaker Jan: Yeah.

[19:22] Vivianna: And not so much to our unsheltered veterans. They're all veterans. Yeah, yeah. To make sure they're connected to their benefits, make sure they're connected to anything possible out there that they might be entitled to.

[19:34] Speaker Jan: Right.

[19:35] Vivianna: And also connect themselves among themselves.

[19:38] Speaker Jan: Among themselves, yeah.

[19:40] Vivianna: There's that brotherhood between them that. It's essential.

[19:44] Speaker Jan: I believe that.

[19:45] Vivianna: Yeah.

[19:45] Speaker Jan: Yeah.

[19:46] Vivianna: So we're gonna be able to do that.

[19:47] Speaker Jan: Oh, that's exciting.

[19:49] Vivianna: At the CSI convention center from ten to two.

[19:52] Speaker Jan: Very exciting. Oh, good. I'll put links to show notes about that. That's good.

[19:57] Vivianna: Yeah.

[19:58] Speaker Jan: Any other visions you have going on that you'd love to see happen?

[20:02] Vivianna: Yeah. So CCA owns and operates a hilltop apartment complex, 22 units, in Astoria by Peter Pan Marken. And then just working on planning, you know, renovation of those units. Their military housing. They were military housing we donated to CCA in the late eighties. And then we just haven't done much to the houses just because of capacity and because of. We try to keep the rent as low as possible. So there's not a lot of income that comes with that property. Actually, it's a property that we spend a lot of money in. So then just working on different ideas on how to renovate it and still keep it as low affordable as possible.

[20:54] Speaker Jan: And I would think that would be a good place for a grant.

[20:56] Vivianna: Yeah, that's probably one of the things that I'm focusing on. Those are the little steps. Not little step, but little goals. I call them zero to five years. Right. But then there's bigger dreams that I have that I'm afraid to speak about because I'm afraid they will not come true.

[21:19] Speaker Jan: You can always have them dreams, whether they come true or not. But back to the other, maybe that's a good place for volunteers.

[21:28] Vivianna: Absolutely.

[21:29] Speaker Jan: To help do repairs or whatever construction.

[21:32] Vivianna: Needs or even yard work.

[21:34] Speaker Jan: Yard work is huge, right.

[21:36] Vivianna: Yard work is huge and very expensive. So. Yeah. Another place where we need volunteers.

[21:42] Speaker Jan: Yeah. And that could be just a couple hours a week or something too.

[21:45] Vivianna: Correct.

[21:46] Speaker Jan: Or maybe it could be a party time. Yes. Bring your friends. Let's go do this project.

[21:52] Vivianna: So that would be wonderful.

[21:53] Speaker Jan: Yeah. Yeah. I would think that that would be something that would be good as well. Maybe painting or. I don't know, whatever.

[22:01] Vivianna: We are painting the units right now, but, you know, there's always upkeep.

[22:05] Speaker Jan: Right? Different upkeep things. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Very good. Okay. We'll have to make a list of things, you know, like volunteer possibilities and whatever. Like that. Yeah. I'm sure that you have stories about people that you've actually helped or impacted, too, you know.

[22:27] Vivianna: Yeah, there are a lot of stories and there's some sad stories and some, because I've been there for, I don't know, 2010. So how many years is that? 14 years. I've been at CCA for 14 years. I have a lot of stories. I have really good ones. Like, we had a homeless lady in Astoria that was homeless on the street for many years, coupled even maybe three decades, and we recently were able to place her in a house, in an apartment complex. And she was so worried that she was not going to be able to make it. And I assure her that we will not leave her alone. And sure enough, we visit her, you know, daily to make sure that she feels connected and she feels supported by us and make sure that she doesn't go back to the street because that it's. She cannot afford it.

[23:28] Speaker Jan: Oh, I think that human connection, you know, that connection, human connection follow up.

[23:31] Vivianna: Is just so absolutely essential.

[23:34] Speaker Jan: Yeah.

[23:35] Vivianna: And also the other, you know, the Columbia Inn, it's a shelter. We just. We've been open for eight months. At a peak in December. We have 26 children that, you know, the Columbia Inn. When you look at the Columbia Inn, you look at the people who smoke outside, a couple of people that smoke outside, but behind those doors, their families with children, most of it, over 80% of those units are for family with children. And we do have kiddos in there. And then we have developed some summer programs for them with the assistance of the Warrenton School District and Astoria Parks and Recs and the Astoria Public library that are helping us to be able, even the movie theater to be able to have some kind of normalcy for the kids that are at the Columbia Inn. So that's another story, huh?

[24:29] Speaker Jan: Well, that's good to know. Yeah.

[24:33] Vivianna: And the other one is we distribute produce to the three cities in our county once a week. And that takes a lot of work, a lot of effort, and a lot of volunteers, and as I mentioned, a lot of effort to be able to deliver fresh produce to Warrenton, seaside and Astoria once a week during the summer months. That's that one. And then veterans, we have connected many veterans to the services that they are entitled to. That's a huge win for CCA.

[25:11] Speaker Jan: Yeah. Do you find that people don't like veterans, don't know all the things that they're doing?

[25:16] Vivianna: No, they don't. They don't. And sometimes the veterans, they receive, you know, when they have some kind of disability connected to their service, and then when they received that disability, let's say ten years ago, they can revisit that disability and get it reevaluated because maybe they have a new diagnosis or something that is related to the service. The time the service says, oh, so then people don't know that once you receive a disability from the veteran, from the VA, something might develop later on that is related to that. So you always have to go back and revisit that and make sure you receive, when you are entitled to your payment, you're entitled to any benefits.

[26:06] Speaker Jan: Yeah, that's important.

[26:08] Vivianna: Very important.

[26:09] Speaker Jan: Right? Yeah. I don't know much about what's available in seaside. What other, besides what you guys do in Seaside, what else is available down there?

[26:18] Vivianna: Well, they have helping hands, which is a shelter. We also are having our Alciartos Franza coming up in middle of August, and then there's some housing for low income and housing for workforce housing and housing for severely mentally disabled people. So there's a lot of things that happen in CSI.

[26:41] Speaker Jan: Yeah, that's good. And then do you also do things with mental health or does that just go through.

[26:46] Vivianna: Just goes through CBH.

[26:48] Speaker Jan: CBH.

[26:48] Vivianna: We do partner with clouds of behavioral health. We partner, have many clients that we share where that's an outstanding partnership, making sure people are connected to the services.

[27:01] Speaker Jan: Yeah, that's good. Well, this has been really interesting. Is there anything else you'd like to share?

[27:07] Vivianna: I have so much.

[27:08] Speaker Jan: So much. Well, we can keep going. No, it's okay.

[27:12] Vivianna: No, no, no. There's always. There's always a lot to speak about CCA. I hope it comes across that I absolutely love what I do. I love it.

[27:23] Speaker Jan: So it makes you one of our extraordinary women.

[27:26] Vivianna: Thank you. I just love, love being in service to others.

[27:31] Speaker Jan: And I'm sure that you would welcome anyone to contact.

[27:34] Vivianna: Absolutely, yeah.

[27:37] Speaker Jan: Either for services or to volunteer or.

[27:40] Vivianna: To find out more, just to chat. I'm fine with that.

[27:44] Speaker Jan: Well, thank you, Viviana.

[27:45] Vivianna: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.