LAKE COUNTY — According to its annual report, North Coast Opportunities, Inc. (NCO) implemented several new programs in Lake County in 2021, including the Community Kitchen Project, the MendoLake Food Hub, and Building Homes, Building Lives, which taught marketable job skills to residents while addressing food and housing insecurity.
According to its website, North Coast Opportunities, Inc. is a community action agency that serves Lake and Mendocino Counties as well as parts of Humboldt, Napa, Sonoma, Del Norte, and Solano counties.
NCO was established as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and employs roughly 225 people with an annual budget of $33.5 million. NCO is a member of the National Community Action Partnership, a network of community action agencies working to connect families and children with greater opportunity.
NCO dispersed more than $750,000 in direct financial assistance, which covered basic needs and living expenses for families economically impacted by the pandemic.
NCO’s volunteer network recruited hundreds of volunteers who delivered food and supplies to quarantined families and vaccinated people at public health vaccine clinics.
Another program, the MendoLake Food Hub, increased access to fresh produce and supported the delivery of food boxes to households in need during the pandemic.
A construction training program, Building Homes, Building Lives, trains Lake County residents facing unemployment or housing insecurity job readiness skills under a licensed general contractor. Participants receive mentoring, soft skill development and hands-on training upon graduation, and each receives a letter of recommendation, a certificate of completion and job placement opportunities.
People who are experiencing homelessness in Lake County can utilize the New Digs program to secure permanent housing by following the housing-first philosophy. This program supports housing stabilization through placement, intensive case management and rental assistance. New Digs is a “hand-up” program, and staff work closely with clients, innkeepers and landlords to ensure immediate housing stability and create a plan for long-term, permanent housing. Its website states: “New Digs is a Rapid Re-housing Program using a Housing First model: we get individuals and families off the streets first, then we can tackle other barriers to permanent housing.”
The California COVID-19 Rent Relief program was created by the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020. It provides assistance to renters with COVID-related past-due rent and utilities payment, and it helps landlords who have tenants behind in their rent payments. NCO has partnered with the state to help residents with applications.
Citizens Caring 4 Clearlake (CC4C) aims to clean up Clearlake and rid it of litter and blight via education and volunteer action. The 2021 report states that 33 tons of debris in and around Clearlake was collected. Twenty dump vouchers were distributed to Clearlake residents to encourage using landfills and to discourage illegal dumping. Forty mattresses were recycled through the Mattress Recycling Council.
Barbara Christwitz, co-founder of Citizens Caring 4 Clearlake, said, “We’re an umbrella organization of NCO. We’ve been around since the end of 2014.” She added that the group recently held another “adopt the highway” cleanup. “There were six of us that cleaned up a section of the highway. We cleaned Sulphur Bank Road last week. There are 140 people on our email list and sometimes we get the Americorps young people from all over the USA to help.”
Added Christwitz, “The problem is we have cleaned up Clearlake plenty of times, so we are under no illusion that it’ll be cleaned up forever. We’re really just a front for building community. We also work with people who have to do community service, plus the young people of the high schools are required to do community service in order to graduate. Also, if someone works with us, under supervision, for an hour, they can get a $15 gift card for gas or groceries. Anybody who wants to arrange to work for an hour can do this.”
To get involved, call (707) 995-0940 or visit www.cc4cl.org