Q&A with Veteran and Community Health Worker Tamyca Branam Phillips

In 2017 and 2018, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Tamyca is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

Tamyca Branam Phillips

Tamyca Branam Phillips

Q. What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

A. African American, Native American, veterans, military, grandparents, community activists, community health workers, community education workers.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. Currently head of the Urban League of Portland's morale committee, as well as facilitator for parent empowerment workshops in the Urban League's community health worker program.

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. I would love to work up the chain to management and executive management positions within the Urban League. I also want to be highly active in roles of systemic change within broken systems hurting our communities.

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. Being a part of a team that is addressing the inequities placed upon individuals with disabilities. Being part of the solution in fixing the systemic oppression and discrimination.

Q. What do you hope to get out of being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative?

Additional resources, networking, ideas and language to help educate and empower the many communities that I am a part of.  Knowledge is power, so I will take the knowledge learned and share it.

Q. What is your vision for the future of our region?

I don’t know. The running joke amongst family, friends and my community is, when am I going to run for any number of offices… commissioner, mayor, senator, congresswoman, president. I want to finish my B.S. in public health with a minor in civic engagement. Then, of course, move forward up the education ladder.

Q. What is your favorite book, movie and/or song, and why?

A. Book: don’t have one, but I do enjoy Where The Side Walk Ends. Movies: Legend, Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Matilda and any Tim Burton movie. Song: Christina Aguilera's "Fighter" (inspired my fighter tattoo on my right shoulder). It represents that, no matter what, I will get back up. You can never hold this girl down.

Q. Is there anything else you want people to know? 

A. I am veteran of two military services: Navy and Coast Guard. I'm a former EMT Basic and firefighter. I have multiple invisible disabilities. I don’t show them, because I am determined not to let them hold me down.

I was born to serve my community. From 16-years-old to the present, you can find me serving my community in a variety of ways. So much so that a coworker published a story about me giving my all without thinking. You can read the story here.

Learn more about the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative here.

Keeping Vancouver Housed

Oregon and Southwest Washington are in the midst of a housing crisis. Over the last few years, the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metro area has been flooded with out-of-state movers. Market forces, including limited housing supply and stagnant wages, are making it hard for people to secure safe and affordable homes. Demand is so high, at the end of 2015 only 2.4% of rentals were vacant, and many people struggling to make ends meet were pushed out of their homes. Cities and community organizations endeavor to enact solutions to this problem. In Vancouver, a community has come together to build power and take concrete steps toward keeping people housed.

SUPPORTERS OF AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING LEVY TESTIFY IN FRONT OF VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL ON JUNE 20, 2016.

SUPPORTERS OF AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING LEVY TESTIFY IN FRONT OF VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL ON JUNE 20, 2016.

[Image description: Three people dressed in red sit at a table facing Vancouver's City Council. The city councilors are seated at a long, semicircular desk, with each person's name on a plaque mounted in front of them.]

At the end of 2014, Courtyard Village, an apartment complex in Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood, which is known for housing people from vulnerable communities, was sold to a new owner. Tenants in the 151-unit complex began receiving 20-day notices to vacate. Families, singles, couples and seniors found themselves facing a housing crisis during the holiday season.

Also at the end of 2014, twenty-six Southwest Washington residents participated in Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington’s first Community Health Worker training program. Before even graduating the program, these community leaders made a huge impact in the lives of the people evicted from Rose Village, and they’ve continued to make an impact on the entire community through their advocacy for affordable housing.

When the 20-day notices to vacate were issued, many of Courtyard Village’s tenants didn’t even know the apartment complex had been sold. The Community Health Workers in training, some of whom lived in the Rose Village neighborhood, pulled together with Washington Elementary School and the Council for the Homeless to educate tenants about what was happening and connect them to resources. This included a community meeting where they learned about assistance finding housing, paying moving costs and support being offered by a neighboring church (Vancouver First United Methodist). It also included Community Health Workers going door to door to make sure every tenant, including those who had chronic conditions and no means of transportation, received the information they needed. Thanks to these efforts, 101 of the 151 Courtyard Village households contacted partners for assistance. The community stepped up with fundraising, too. The Vancouver community raised $102,000 to help households pay expenses associated with moving. There was a “fun run” and donations from individuals and businesses. In addition, many congregations held special offerings. This community-driven assistance helped 76 of the 101 households, including 89 children, secure new homes.

After responding to the Courtyard Village crisis and graduating from their training program in February 2015, the Community Health Workers were determined to prevent similar situations from happening again in the future. That meant policy change.

On September 14, 2015, Community Health Workers, Rose Village residents and others testified at a City of Vancouver hearing about a proposal for renter protections. Community Health Worker Dominique Horn testified as a Rose Village community member and Courtyard Village neighbor: “It doesn’t just affect them. It affects the whole community. It affects the school. It affects my children. It affects everyone. And there is nowhere for them to go.”

COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKER DOMINIQUE HORN TESTIFYING AT THE SEPTEMBER 14TH, 2015 VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL MEETING. CLICK ON THE IMAGE AND FAST FORWARD TO 2:05 TO LISTEN TO DOMINIQUE'S POWERFUL TESTIMONY.

COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKER DOMINIQUE HORN TESTIFYING AT THE SEPTEMBER 14TH, 2015 VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL MEETING. CLICK ON THE IMAGE AND FAST FORWARD TO 2:05 TO LISTEN TO DOMINIQUE'S POWERFUL TESTIMONY.

[Image description: Screenshot of a woman speaking into a microphone, people seated behind her. A caption at the bottom of the screen reads "Vancouver City Council, 9/14/15."]

After the hearing, Vancouver’s City Council approved three ordinances protecting vulnerable renters: one requiring landlords who wish to raise a tenant’s rent by ten percent or more to give a 45-day written notice of rent increase, one requiring landlords who own five or more rental units to give at least 60-days notice to vacate, and one preventing landlords from refusing to rent to a tenant based on a tenant’s source of income. This was a huge win for Community Health Workers, Rose Village tenants and the Vancouver community as a whole, but it still didn’t solve the problem of the lack of affordable housing.

That brings us to this week. Once again, on June 20, 2016, Vancouver residents packed the City Council Chambers, many of them wearing red. They wore red to show their support for an affordable housing levy. At a rate of 36 cents per $1,000 assessed property value, the levy would generate $6 million annually for seven years to be put toward low-income rental housing and homelessness prevention. Thanks to the turnout and testimony, City Council voted to add the levy to the November ballot.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF HEALTHY LIVING COLLABORATIVE OF SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON KACHINA INMAN PRESENTS A CHECK TO THE  BRING VANCOUVER HOME  CAMPAIGN.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF HEALTHY LIVING COLLABORATIVE OF SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON KACHINA INMAN PRESENTS A CHECK TO THE BRING VANCOUVER HOME CAMPAIGN.

[Image description: Two women stand in front of a room full of people seated at tables covered with purple tablecloths. One of the women holds a large check. More people stand in front of a wall draped in purple and red.]

Policy measure by policy measure, Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington and its many partners work toward keeping community members in their homes. With 501(c)4 funding from Northwest Health Foundation's Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities initiative, Healthy Living Collaborative and its partners will be able to contribute dollars to a political campaign for the first time this year: the non-partisan campaign Bring Vancouver Home. They will continue to advocate for families and children in Southwest Washington to keep them housed and healthy.

Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington is the lead organization for Healthy Communities, Healthy Futures, a Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative.

Check Out Our Partners in Willamette Week's 2015 Give!Guide

It's giving season again, folks! That means Willamette Week's Give!Guide is collecting donations now through midnight on December 31st, with a goal of raising $3,250,000 total for 143 deserving Portland nonprofits.

Several of those 143 nonprofits are Northwest Health Foundation's past and current funded partners. Check them out! We've included five below, and you can find more in our Grants Archive. These community organizations are doing amazing work for our region, and they have earned every bit of support you can offer them.

 

Adelante Mujeres provides holistic education and empowerment opportunities to low income Latina women and their families to ensure full participation and active leadership in the community. Their programs include child and adult education, youth leadership, business development, a farmers market and more! Most recently, NWHF awarded Adelante Mujeres a Kaiser Permanente Community Fund (KPCF) grant for ESPERE, a program aimed at addressing the issue of individual, familial and societal violence among Latino immigrant families.

 

Hacienda CDC is a Latino Community Development Corporation that strengthens families by providing affordable housing, homeownership support, economic advancement and educational opportunities. This year, Hacienda CDC opened the Portland Mercado, Portland's first Latino public market. A KPCF grant helped fund the establishment of this economic and cultural hub in SE Portland.  

 

Latino Network provides transformative opportunities, services and advocacy for the education, leadership and civic engagement of our youth, families and communities. NWHF supports Latino Network through a KPCF grant to Juntos Aprendemos, a program that prepares 3-5 year olds for success in kindergarten and equips parents with the skills and confidence to be their child’s first teachers.

 

REACH provides quality, affordable housing for individuals, families and communities to thrive. Recently, REACH completed an affordable housing project called Orchards at Orenco, which won recognition for being the largest multi-family Passive House building in the United States. KPCF funded REACH to investigate strategies and best practices to develop and implement a paid job training program for REACH residents. 

 

Village Gardens brings a spirit of hope to the people by growing and sharing healthy food, learning and teaching skills, and empowering community leadership. Village Gardens includes individual and family garden plots, employment opportunities for adults and teens, after-school and summer activities for children, homework clubs, an emerging livestock project, a Community Health Worker program, and a youth-run entrepreneurial business. KPCF is funding Village Gardens to launch a community driven network of food based micro enterprises.

 

"It's not what's wrong with people, but rather what happens to them."

Healthy Living Collaborative's first group of graduating Community Health Workers. Matti is the one in the red sweater.

Healthy Living Collaborative's first group of graduating Community Health Workers. Matti is the one in the red sweater.

Community Health Workers (CHWs) of the Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington (HLC) come from the communities they work in. A combination of health training and community understanding make HLC's CHWs ideal connectors for community members and health systems. They have the knowledge and resources people need, as well as the trust of the people they are working with.

Matti Neal is one of those Community Health Workers. She graduated from HLC's first round of CHW training, and she was one of only 25 CHWs in Washington state selected to participate in Healthy Generations' NEAR Expert Presenter and Coach Education cohort.

NEAR is the study of the intersection between neuroscience, epigenetics, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and resilience, or, as Matti explained, "It's not what's wrong with people, but rather what happens to them." 

Here's what Matti learned at the training:

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences are a major determinant of homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, mental challenges, drug abuse, chronic disease and success in education.
  • The first step toward healing comes with awareness, education and understanding of the problem, which often requires a change in thinking.
  • The dynamics that lead to high ACEs scores can improve with the support of community resources, trusted relationships, thriving communities, respect, faith and culture.
  • And community organizing and policy advocacy can lead to improved health for an entire community.

Matti's greatest takeaway? Everyone can make a difference in someone's life, or even in the health of a whole neighborhood. Anyone can make a positive impact on community health and help to change policies. In addition, Matti's understanding of ACEs has led her to become more compassionate. She makes an effort to learn a person's story before jumping to conclusions. 

The NEAR training has inspired Matti to pursue further education in the area of mental illness, addiction and recovery counseling. It has also led HLC's CHWs to plan community education and events incorporating many of the learnings that Matti brought back to the community.