Mobile home

A dilapidated unit in San Juan Mobile Home park is one of many structures set for rehabilitation and/or removal. Colorado Health Foundation said recent work with mobile home parks and potential improvements are ways health equity can improve in Montrose. (Cassie Knust/Montrose Daily Press)

Montrose County was integrated into Colorado Health Foundation’s program centered on locally-focused work, and program officers and managers are ready to get to work.

Each community went through a rigorous research discussion process, according to Chris Bui, senior program officer with The Colorado Health Foundation and the point of contact for Montrose County.

Issues that stood out in Montrose during the process were challenges securing child care — Bui mentioned parents who juggle the balance between work and taking care of their child, and some who aren’t able to work at all.

Other topics include affordable housing and ranching (agriculture and food system).

Bui has already periodically spent some time in Montrose, meeting community members and learning more about the area and region.

Daniela Young, a collaboration manager with The Civic Canopy, which works with The Colorado Health Foundation to elevate solutions focused on improving health and racial equity in Colorado communities, too, has visited the area.

So far, as part of its locally focused work, the health foundation has integrated nine counties, with Montrose County its latest focus (Otero and Eagle County are a few others). Specific program officers are assigned to each county, and Young, along with partner Alice Pugh, are tasked with developing Montrose connections.

Young met with leaders from local organizations such as Hispanic Affairs Project, Mexican American Development Association (MADA) and Housing Resources of Western Colorado during a brief visit earlier this year. It was mostly to touch base, Young said, letting organizational leaders know Civic Canopy can provide support, like how to use data to develop plans or analyze certain issues, or strategic framework development and planning.

“I look at health equity as people having access to a home, healthy food and clean water,” Young said. “Being able to see a doctor when they need to, getting opportunities to get the education they want ... being in a safe community, and universally safe.

“In a place like Montrose, when housing is getting stressed, that has ripple effects.”

Identifying those ripple effects are part of stages one and two in the process, as well as learning about Montrose and what exactly organizations are doing. Currently, Young and Pugh are in the stage one and two phases.

But Civic Canopy or the Colorado Health Foundation aren’t trying to come into communities and start to advise on what should be done. Rather, it’s about helping elevate local organizations in the community focused on providing a community service. Or talking with groups that may not consider themselves a formal organization.

If those organizations would like some assistance, or guidance on specific support, that’s where Civic Canopy can step in.

“There are opportunities to recognize, or highlight support, provide resources, too, so (organizations) have the ability to carry on the work and potentially find opportunities they weren’t able to get a hold of,” Bui said.

Young has also had a few conversations with Ross Valdez, community engagement specialist for the city, discussing the community, housing and other local organizations. She’s long-known Ricardo Perez, executive director of HAP, and also spoke with Bethany Maher, interim executive director of MADA.

Elevating a community’s health and racial equity is no linear path, Bui said, which is why there’s no timeline for the program. But an ideal, fluid path towards betterment of equity could involve understanding one another and listening to those who may not have an immediate voice, he said. Opening channels of communication that previously closed off or stimulating civic engagement also can be key parts to the process, he added.

“Increasing people’s voice is not an overnight thing,” Bui said. “That takes moving parts and moving pieces.”

One example Young mentioned was the work being done by the city and a developer to improve local mobile home parks. So Young and Pugh collected resources to deliver to those involved, just in case, to offer helpful tips or solutions and guidance.

“Right now it’s feeling like making connections and connections to resources,” Young said.

With no set timeline, there’s opportunity for Young and Pugh to continue building long-term connections for Montrose County and its members.

“What were trying to do now is make sure we can dedicate more resources to (the program),” Bui said. “The moment we set a timeline is the moment we set limits.”

To learn more or for additional information, visit coloradohealth.org/locally-focused-work. Organizations or community members can reach Young at 720-996-0754.

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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