An advocate for the homeless and a community volunteer, Betty Kwan Chinn has dedicated her life to helping those in need. For over 40 years she has served the homeless. Since 2013, she has served as the founder of the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center, a business she initiated to assist those in need of shelter. As an activist, she focuses her efforts on providing solutions to the homeless population in her region and is proud to consistently help those facing housing predicaments.
The umbrella organization through which Ms. Chinn supports her community is the Betty Kwan Chinn Foundation, an organization she created to further serve those in need with the mission, “To honor all of humanity by providing direct responses to immediate needs and helping the homeless achieve the dignity needed to return to society as contributing members.” Through her foundation, she has been able to extend her reach through the Family Shelter, Betty’s Blue Angel Village, Betty’s Annex, Betty’s Blue Angel Outreach and Betty’s Showers.
Among such additional endeavors, Ms. Chinn spearheaded the Family Shelter in 2016, which provides transitional housing for up to eight families at a time, giving them the stability, services, and support needed to find a permanent place to live. In addition, in partnership with Providence Hospital, it offers respite space for up to 10 homeless people recently discharged from the hospital to convalesce. Also in 2016, when the city of Eureka, California, was working to clear its largest homeless encampment from a greenbelt near the bay, Ms. Chinn partnered with the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights to convert some old Connex shipping containers into a housing village. Betty’s Blue Angel Village now shelters up to 40 people at a time while offering intensive wrap-around services aimed at transitioning them into permanent housing situations and is one of few shelters on the West Coast that allows animals.
Ms. Chinn was granted the 2008 Minerva Award by then California First Lady Maria Shriver and used the $25,000 grant that came with it as seed money to build Eureka’s first free public shower facility under the mantra, “Providing dignity one shower at a time.” In addition, she was honored with the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Barack Obama in 2010. That year she was also invited to Hong Kong to receive the Loving Hearts Award. In 2013, she received the “You Bring Charm to the World” award from China. She was featured in CNN’s Hero Series in 2018
Ms. Chinn attributes her success to a strong passion for helping others find comfort and safety. She is eager to identify new ways to sponsor those in need and encourage people to realize their full potential to help themselves. She is grateful to the local businesses that make regular donations, allowing her to persist in presenting resources and options to the needy contingent in her community. She says, “After all, kindness does not cost anything.” Although her realistic goals do not extend to an attempt to end all homelessness, she helps those she can, one at a time.
Ms. Chinn feels especially connected to her line of work through her own personal experiences as a young girl living in China. At 7 years old, she was turned out of her family’s home in Guangdong Province during Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution. Targeted because of her parents’ wealth and religious beliefs, she spent four years homeless on the streets, as her mother had been jailed and her siblings sent to labor camps. After four years tortured and ostracized, she and three of her siblings fled, hiking hundreds of miles before swimming across the Pearl River Delta to freedom in Hong Kong. Ms. Chinn made a promise to herself then that when she grew up, she would do everything in her power to never let another person suffer the way she had.