Betty Chinn is a woman who exemplifies how one person can BettySmiletouch the lives of hundreds of people whom the rest of the world has forgotten. Her purpose is simple: to show the homeless who live in her hometown of Eureka love, comfort and basic humanity.”

Every morning before dawn, she loads up her catering truck with an urn of hot coffee, piles on the doughnuts and heads out to make her deliveries. Hers is a special clientele: the homeless, the disenfranchised, the forgotten. They are often mentally ill, substance abusers, teenage runaways or veterans. They do not seek out shelters or come in from the cold; they prefer to hide. They live under the railroad, under bridges or in the bushes. At the moment they range in age from age 3 to age 82, but she’s seen them younger and older. Betty is one of the few people in their fearful world they have come to trust. No judgment, no lecture; just a cup of coffee and a taste of humanity to help them get through the day… [more]

See below for updates, read about Betty in the news, or find Betty on Facebook.

During this past school year, Betty mentored twenty high school seniors that were homeless, from Fortuna to McKinleyville.  She picked them up early each morning, took them to shower, provided clean clothes and a quiet place to do their homework, then transported them to school.  The exciting news is that this fall, all twenty of these students will be attending out-of-state, four-year universities!  Betty is very proud of each of them.

The new school year is rapidly approaching, and Betty is in need of 40 good-quality backpacks for local high school students, and more backpacks for elementary and middle-school students, too. Also needed are high-school-appropriate graphing calculators (TI-83, etc) and other general school supplies.

If you are able to help provide any of these items, please drop off your donation at the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center, 133 7th Street, in Eureka.

The Center is open to adults from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.  A big thank you to those supporters who help Betty with her school start-up project every year!

This is a story about second chances, and several community members that have helped give people a second chance at life. A homeless young man (we’ll call him ‘Jack’) that Betty knew had a minor legal problem that he just never could get himself to take care of.  He suffered from depression, and even though the legal matter weighed heavy on him, he just didn’t have the energy to face going to the County Courthouse to deal with it. Eventually his depression became so debilitating that he was placed on SSI disability.

Betty suggested to Jack that he clear up his legal issue by going to the Homeless Court held at St. Vincent de Paul’s dining facility, but he kept putting it off. Betty had learned about homeless court just a few months before, from a local woman named Suzie Van Kirk, who is a homeless court advocate. Many homeless people are uncomfortable appearing at the Courthouse. With Homeless Court, Judge Feeney goes to the people, at various locations, instead of making them come to him.

Unable to get beyond his depression, Jack missed his first homeless court appearance date.  But Betty kept insisting that he really needed to clear his record. She went with him to the next homeless court session, and Judge Feeney decided to give Jack a second chance by clearing his record, and giving him 20 hours of community service.  For people that can’t pay fines, this allows them to pay back their community and get a fresh start in life.

Once Jack had cleared his record, Betty got him a yard-work job. She hadn’t been willing to let him work for anyone until his legal record was cleared. Jack felt good about earning his own money, and he enjoyed the work. After this experience, he felt like he could earn his own way in life, rather than receiving SSI. He started getting day jobs and various yard work jobs, earning good money. He began feeling better about himself, which changed his expectations for his life. Jack decided to go back to school.

This year Jack graduated from HSU, and invited Betty to attend his graduation. While watching the graduation ceremonies, Betty was struck by the idea that everyone has a gift to reach out to someone, and change their life. Judge Feeney had given Jack (and many other homeless individuals) a second chance in life by helping him clear his record, so he could earn his own way in life. Jack had no family. The seed of hope had been buried deep inside of him, under layers of depression. Fortunately for Jack, the compassion of a local judge helped that seed within begin to sprout.

Betty is honored to have Judge Feeney hold homeless court at the Day Center. It takes a community of people, looking at life from different angles, to help lift people up. Everyone has a gift to reach out to someone, and change their life.  Your gift may be very different than someone else’s, but you’ll never know the power of your gift to change a life if you don’t offer it. Everyone deserves a second chance. Don’t be afraid to reach out!

Mark your calendars for 6pm, May 15th
St. Bernard High School Gymnasium
Tickets available here

1619607_10100712054539090_48354004364636959_nAn “Evening with Betty” is a community fundraiser with a simple mission to raise funds for the daily duties and services of the Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation. Betty has immeasurably impacted Humboldt County as she provides a learning center, transitional housing, kids programs, street outreach, case management, commercial kitchen, stabilization services, and guidance into careers for the homeless, as well as many other support programs for the often marginalized in our community. All funding for Betty comes in the form of community donations and grants. This fundraiser will greatly help Betty and her staff continue to provide much needed services to ensure the welfare of our community. Food courtesy of Rita’s Margaritas & Mexican Grill!


Ways to Give

For over 30 years, Betty Chinn and her supporters have worked to serve people experiencing homelessness in Eureka and Humboldt County. We are grateful to all who have joined in supporting our work through offering prayers, volunteer hours, and donations. We look forward to continuing to make a difference in Humboldt County, knowing that we are supported by the love of our giving community.

We need the help from our donors on an ongoing basis. Whether you give during the holidays, dedicate a memorial gift, or remember us in your will, no monetary donation is too small, no gift unappreciated.

Gifts to join in supporting Betty’s work can be made by specifying a gift to the “Betty Chinn’s Homeless Fund” through Humboldt Area Foundation.
Go to:
Make sure to check the circle and specify “Betty Chinn’s Homeless Fund” where it says “To be added to a fund or program (enter a specific fund or program name or leave blank if unrestricted)”

All of your donations go directly to support Betty’s work which reaches out to those in need in our community.  If you have problems making an online donation, mail a check to:
Betty Chinn’s Homeless Fund
P.O. Box 736,
Eureka, CA
95502 .

We thank you for your donation today.

by Lisa Bethune, January 20, 2015

Wednesday, November 19, 2014, was forecast to be the beginning of several days of intense rain, with dire flooding forecast throughout the Humboldt county area. Betty knew that many of the homeless people she cared for lived in wetland areas that would most likely end up flooding. She went to each of the camps, and at each camp, the group decided who would stay and watch over the camp, and who needed to go to higher ground with Betty. When Betty was finished, she had 134 people that needed a place to stay.

At 5:00 a.m., Betty made two phone calls to former homeless people that she had helped get housing and jobs two years prior. She told them that she needed help, that she had a lot of people that needed housing during the storms, and she had no where to put them. They told Betty that they would see what they could do. They started making phone calls, and every hour they reported back to Betty, giving her addresses of other former homeless people that were willing to take people in, putting them up in either an extra room or their garage. By 11:00 a.m. they had found 40 places. By 2:00 they had found a total of 51 host families, enough to fill the need for all 134 people. One family took in seven people. When Betty objected, saying that was too much, the family told her, “Remember, this happened to us a year ago.” They set up their garage and put some of the people in there.

As Betty and others delivered people to homes from Fortuna to McKinleyville, she told each person that they had to follow the host’s rules. She told the hosts that if at any point it wasn’t working, they could call her and she would come pick the people up. Betty thought that this arrangement would be needed for about a week, but it ended up lasting for more than a month, as the rains continued.

During this time, Betty visited the different homes, offering to help the host families with extra food and money for utilities. Betty has always said that God knows what she needs and He provides it. Unbeknownst to Betty, St. Bernard’s school was in the middle of their first canned food drive for her, and the abundance of canned food they collected was delivered to her during this time, just when she needed it most.

While Betty checked on her clients, many of which have mental illness or medical needs, she noticed that many of their personalities and physical appearances had changed a lot while staying in a stable place. Betty was surprised to see that even if someone had a mental issue, they could stay in a house, help out and keep it clean. Most of these people had never lived a normal life, in a clean house. They had had no guidance in the past, growing up in very dysfunctional families. Her clients were being mentored in a way that only someone who had walked in their shoes could. Betty knew she was witnessing such great human love, one to another, for this to be able to happen.

The host families were also teaching them how to budget their money so they could stay off of the streets. The host families didn’t want to have to send these people back to the streets, so they started looking for ways to help them succeed. As of mid-January, 54 out of the 134 people that Betty first moved now have permanent housing. Through word of mouth, the host families helped them find a room to rent or share, and taught them how they can manage to pay the rent each month. The twenty that have chosen to leave were told by their hosts that they are always welcome to come back.

There is nothing more powerful than human connection. These host families used their own experiences to teach their guests. They told Betty, “I’ve been in that place and you pulled me out. Now it is our turn to pay it back.” We all have the opportunity each day to plant seeds of human kindness, and we will never know when or how those seeds will blossom. With all of the sadness that Betty sees on the streets every day, this experience has fed her soul and recharged her batteries. Our gratitude and blessings to everyone that opened their hearts and their homes to people in need. We are nothing without community. You inspire us all!

Open House Today

“Today, the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center is hosting an open house from noon to 4 p.m. to celebrate its first anniversary. And there is much to celebrate: hundreds upon hundreds of lives improved, by offering Eureka’s homeless and impoverished a hand up instead of a handout.”
Eureka Times-Standard

Editorial: Betty Chinn’s lifelong dream pays off, in lives improved
Eureka Times-Standard

A year ago this week, Betty Chinn — the closest thing Eureka has to a living patron saint — began a new experiment on the corner of C and Seventh streets.

Today, the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center is hosting an open house from noon to 4 p.m. to celebrate its first anniversary. And there is much to celebrate: hundreds upon hundreds of lives improved, by offering Eureka’s homeless and impoverished a hand up instead of a handout.

The day center building, purchased by Catholic Charities with $500,000 donated by Fortuna native and Santa Rosa businessman Henry Trione, was extensively renovated by a team led by local developer and Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation board member Kurt Kramer. The foundation’s budget for its first year was about $220,000, part of which was contracted to go to Catholic Charities to pay for the center’s two paid employees, as well as administrative support and grant writing services.

As we detail on today’s front page, over the past year, the center has:

• served more than 1,200 clients;

• offered 400 clients on-site supportive services;

• assisted about 20 children on a regular basis with learning skills and socialization;

• and moved 11 of its program participants into housing and 13 into jobs from April through June alone.

Not a bad start for a philanthropist’s lifelong dream. Even more inspiring when you consider that it’s the culmination of a dream hatched from a nightmare.

Born into a life of relative privilege in China, Chinn at the age of 7 lost her home, her family, her childhood, even her voice to the violence of the Cultural Revolution, as enduring four years of persecution, torture and poverty left her mute and living day by day in a garbage dump. After walking 1,600 miles to escape to Hong Kong, she journeyed thousands upon thousands miles more to the United States, eventually moving to Eureka, regaining her voice, marrying, and raising a family along the way.

For most people, escaping the nightmare would have been enough. But for decades, Chinn made it her life’s mission to help out the least fortunate among us — bringing food to the hungry, clothes to the cold, and hope to the streets of Eureka.

It became her dream to do even more. Teaming up with the nonprofit Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Chinn asked the community to join her in the culmination of her life’s work — a one-stop services center that would help break the cycle of homelessness.

The Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center, at the corner of C and Seventh streets in Eureka, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information or to find out how to donate, visit or call the center at 707-407-3833.

Needed right now:

  • WARM, weatherproof gloves: We need LOTS of these!  When your hands are cold, it’s impossible to warm up on these cold, cold nights!  Betty helps people whose hands are blue and stiff from the cold.
  • WARM jackets: For men, women, & children
  • WARM socks: Wool is best, but any dry socks are better than having to wear cold, wet ones!*
  • WARM sleeping bags
  • Insulating pads for sleeping on ground
  • Tents
  • Waterproof Tarps

* edit 2-12-2014: no more clothes needed at this time.
See our Needs page for how to donate. Thank you!

The Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation and Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa proudly announce the grand opening of the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center! The public is invited to our Open House on Saturday, November 16, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Stop by and see our new facility on the corner of 7th and C St. in Eureka and learn about the different programs we will be offering to the homeless community. This has been a true community effort and we are so grateful!
FrontDoor DayCenter

Here’s the story, from The Eureka Times-Standard’s Thadeus Greenson:

Betty cuts the ribbon at the Grand Opening

Betty cuts the ribbon at the Grand Opening

The ribbon is cut, the Center is complete!


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