Spring 2022 Newsletter: Elizabeth speaks on finding the Celebration, the Care and the Power in Our Work
From the Ground: Recentering, Homes and Deeper Healing
Red Feather Program Coordinator Elizabeth Freeman speaks on the power of re-centering, the need to celebrate success, incorporating education into everything we do, and when a home assessment is so much more than a home assessment.
'Since we’ve grown our Direct Solutions program, which provides a limited budget for home repair materials for families across both Hopi and Navajo, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of calls and applications. It’s been exciting but it’s also been a lot! Remembering the big picture is essential for me when I get overwhelmed with the amount of demand we are facing, or the amount of calls that come in during the day. People are facing a lot, and this is our way of doing something immediately, of meeting immediate need. The growing of the Direct Solutions program is intended to be that, and in so many ways it is succeeding.
'Acknowledging and celebrating that re-centers me.
'Despite the struggles, we are doing so much good work. I mean, we are really doing SO MUCH, reaching so many homes. And sometimes, in the constant drive to do more, we don’t always take the time to stop and spotlight and celebrate what we are doing, which is so important. Because we are reaching a lot of people. When you are as dedicated as we are to trying to help and to serve, it can be overwhelming to come in in the mornings and just see ‘Oh, I have 30 missed calls and 50 new emails’ but the power is in realizing that these are all people we are reaching and people that will be helped.
'I’m a big believer in stopping to recognize accomplishments and celebrate them. The truth is that Red Feather has grown a lot and is doing amazing work, so let’s acknowledge and get joy out of that too, while also recognizing that of course there will always be more work to do.
'I don’t think anyone should undersell what they’ve managed to overcome or succeed at, and that goes for both our employees and those that we serve. People just need to hear “You are doing fantastic!” and this can start a positive cycle of encouragement and self-belief. As we are focusing on meeting these immediate physical needs in the home through our Direct Solutions program, there’s this other side too of just making sure people feel seen and acknowledged. I think this is something we all need.
'When we are in the field a lot, we have to focus on the negative aspects. When you are doing home assessments, you have to look for what is wrong in the home in order to find what is most needed. So this sort of negative focus has to be there, and especially when you are working in communities with endemic poverty and centuries of oppression and trauma, sometimes it’s easy to see only that, to stay in the negative, to just be in the thought process of “how did people get to this point?”
'But there is such a powerful mindset switch we can do too. Like yes, when we are doing home assessments we focus on the negative, but there is also space for the positive in our interactions.
'This is where our education programs come in, because there is a space for change and hope and possibility when people have life tools and not just home fixes. Knowledge cannot be taken away from you. There are so many types of education too, you don’t have to have a degree to gain knowledge.
'At Red Feather, what we want to do is also provide a pathway to the power of knowing that you can take care of yourself. I think that there are many layers to things, and yes its great to have your home fixed, to have heating, to get these needs met, but then there is the deeper emotional level, also the emotional healing, that can come from a feeling of "I can take care of myself."
'This is how I see our programs coming together. We all have a hierarchy of needs. With the Direct Solutions program, and also our HHESI and other home repair programs, we target that base layer on Maslow's pyramid. We all need a home, we need somewhere to sleep, somewhere safe to be, to be warm. Of course we all need that.
'But I don’t want to just leave someone with a healthy home kit and call it a day. We are trying to leave people with something that they can use, that they can pass on to the next generation, that can have a longer-lasting impact.
'I mean, look, we are trying to address this major, age-old housing crisis on the Hopi and Navajo reservation. That’s what Red Feather is here for. But how can we move from just immediate crisis response to preparation, to prevention? I think that incorporating education, financial literacy, all of it, into everything we do is key.
'It is my intention and hope that people pass this all on to their kids, that we can all become better examples, that the next generation has something more to work with.
'My hope is that I can give people the tools, the resources, so that when tough situations come up they have something to throw at that, to address that. We are working on this as a key aspect of our programs at Red Feather all the time.
'People’s actions reflect their mindset and their current emotional state. There’s always a reason for why people are in the situation that they’re in. We all express our needs in different ways. We don’t always know what people have gone through, but we are all human. Having one’s needs be ignored is a kind of neglect.
At its most basic what we do at Red Feather is try to see people’s needs, to make sure that people know we are seeing them. That they’ve been noticed, that someone cares, that they’ve been heard.
'It might seem simple, like we just provided someone with a smoke alarm, fixed their window, gave them a safer stove, but in this context of deep historical and cultural trauma, what I think this can also give, or at least I hope this can also give, is a sense that at least someone saw me today, cared about the situation I was in. At least, if no one else did today, Red Feather saw that need and tried to do something, cared, was there to be present.'
From the Ground: Aging in Place
Aging in Place Program Coordinator Kayla Miller shares her vision for the program as Red Feather looks to support tribal elders living safely in their homes.
Aging in Place is one of our newest programs, furthering Red Feather’s mission of meeting housing needs for people on the Hopi and Navajo Nations in the ways they define as most needed. After receiving seed funding from the Kendal Charitable Trust in 2018 to start providing more specific aging in place services, Red Feather’s elder-focused services have continually expanded.
What has been the biggest success of the aging in place programs so far?
The way we’ve been able to make the aging in place program work with our other, wide-reaching programs, like our APS weatherization program. Case-managers go to homes for weatherization audits which allows us to see what elders actually need. Not everyone needs all the aging in place items we offer. Some elders don’t have full showers so a shower chair might not work for them. Some desperately needs ramps while others are more affected by temperature extremes. Our case-management style of working with people, and going on audits to weatherize homes, allows us to actually meet people where they are and hear from them directly about what they need.
Where would you like to see the program go?
I would like to see more of in-home meeting with clients. With the new field positions based in Hopi and Navajo, we are hoping we will be able to increase the amount of people getting direct in-home audits. This allows us to just really see where elders are at on an individual level.
I also want to see us advertising this program more, which is a work in progress. I think there are lots of elders out there that could benefit that we haven’t reached yet. I’ve heard from multiple people: “This is just what I needed, I didn’t even know you did this! Thank you so much!” So yes, we will be ramping up awareness of the program as we get more funding for aging in place kits.
A lot of people are on disability or social security- so they go there first for resources, but these programs can’t always meet all their aging in place needs, and definitely can’t go into people’s homes like we do. Red Feather is a great resource for people so we just want to get the word out.
What have you seen as far as the extent of the need for elder support and aging in place? How needed do you think these sorts of supports are?
The need is definitely there. I hear things from clients like “I fell down the other day because I didn’t have anything to grip onto in my tub” or that they fell down their stairs because there wasn’t a railing. Elder falls is a high cause of admittance into a hospital, so we know that this is a huge need in the community. One client mentioned how something as simple as a toilet riser has made her life so much easier because her knees are really bad. These little things here and there make a big difference to people. She was so grateful for that and the other aging in place items we gave her. People are really, really grateful.
What’s your favorite thing about working with people in this capacity?
People on the reservation are really vocal about what they want and need. Which is great! Right now funding is limited so we can’t always give everyone who needs one a fully remodeled walk-in shower, but still, that meeting people one-on-one and getting to know them, that is what allows us to help make a home that works for them.
One recipient had recently gone through hip surgery, and she had a really high bathtub – and the second I walked in the door she was right on it- showing me everything she needed and telling me what was going on with her. Her son helped her set up all the aging in place items we gave her. She was actually shocked that we provided her with all the items she needed. When I went back to see her she was just effusive and so grateful- and showed us everything set up in her home. I mean, that’s amazing to be able to see that change firsthand in someone’s life.
Why does this work matter?
With elders, especially Native American elders, they’re very home-based. For the most part the homes they are living in now are the homes they’ve always known. So if they aren’t able to move around or do things in their homes, they obviously get really down. Its demoralizing. With these kits for elders, we are able to help them age in place comfortably. They are in their own homes, they can do things for themselves. They are still a part of their communities. All our recipients so far have been so grateful. We can’t always honor all their requests, but we do the best we can. A lot of elders live alone. The peace of mind for the family knowing they are safer in their homes also matters a lot. The positive feedback shows how great this program is. These little things truly matter.
What are your hopes and dreams for these initiatives? What would you love to provide for elders?
Money for ADA accessible walk-in showers! These are expensive, but people need them. I have noticed a bigger interest in this along with wheelchairs and walkers too. These items are expensive. I would love to have funding for these bigger cost/bigger impact items. This would definitely provide a positive impact in the lives of our clients. Being able to create a healthy and safe home is our vision and we are hoping to expand our outreach. I can’t wait to see the program grow!
2020 Number of homes improved: 16
2020 Total Value of improvements: $64,639
Red Feather’s NHRN program provides case management services to families in need of critical home health and safety repairs. The importance of this program has become even more significant, as we have seen individuals with poor housing conditions suffer complications with COVID-19 at significantly higher levels than those living in well maintained homes.
Sadly, our ability to implement housing repairs has been nearly halted to reduce the risk of spreading the virus between our housing repair contractors and families being helped. Additionally, for many months, our partner communities have had strict shelter-in-place rules, along with roadblocks keeping non-residents from entering. However, through strong advocacy and careful planning, we are now starting to get approvals for returning to work. Below are a few pictures from some of the projects we were able to complete prior to and during the virus.
Sharon Granger Project:
Sharon Granger’s project was first brought to you back in April. Her house was almost destroyed by fire. She is a single mom with a beautiful son who has special needs (wheelchair dependent). As you can see from the pictures below, the fire almost gutted the entire home. Construction work on the Granger home is still in progress due to the severity of the fire damage, but it is on schedule to be completely remodeled by the end of August 2020.
Loretta Talas Project
Dorothy Humetewa Project:
Your donations help provide critical case management services to families in need.
Dear Red Feather, I want to thank you, your company, your workers for coming to my aide, in time of dire need. On October 1, 2018 during the prolonged rain, my house roof started leaking rain water into two bed rooms, living room, dining room, and walls. I was desperate for any help or advice. I asked the local chapter government and the job training program for workers to repair my house. There was none. Everything became hopeless…. One week later I was told my request (with Red Feather) is approved, and they will seal the leaking roof .. seal all other leaks, replace broken windows, seal the doors …The workers were very friendly and understanding. I am very grateful to your program.”
It has been another busy year for our home weatherization program. We are now working in 10 of the 12 Hopi villages - last year we were primarily working in just one – and are now accepting applications from Navajos. For 2018 we have already substantially weatherized 38 homes and recently received a $100,000 extension to our contract that will help more families get ready for the coming winter and keep our local 2-person crew employed.
One the great benefits of home weatherization is the impact it has on improving the comfort of the indoor living environment, which includes making homes cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. A well weatherized home requires less heating and cooling, which in the case of many Hopi and Navajo households means a reduction in the use of coal burning during winter months. Less coal burning can result in cleaner air quality, both indoor and outdoor, which can reduce wide-spread respiratory ailments.
Additionally, more efficient homes also have lower energy costs, which are often a crippling financial burden for many low-income households. In fact, low-income U.S. households spend 7.2 % of their income on utilities bills, which is more than two times that of median income households (3.5%) and three time greater than higher income households (2.3%). This results in families having to make difficult decisions, such as sacrificing food quality and medical care over keeping their home warm or lights on. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that after weatherization, families have homes that are “more livable, resulting in fewer missed days of work and decreased out-of-pocket medical expenses by an average of $514 (per year).” Additionally, at each house we visit, we spend time educating family members not only about ways they can further reduce their energy bills, but also about the connection between their health and their home environment-covering a variety of topics from mold and lead paint to pest management.
Special thanks to APS for funding this home weatherization program as well as funding our DIY Home Weatherization and Women’s DIY Home Repair workshops that we will be delivering this fall.