An advocate for the homeless and a community volunteer, Betty Kwan Chinn has dedicated her life’s purpose to helping those in need. 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, especially abused women. 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.
Another channel 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 Betty’s House, Betty’s Blue Angel Village, Betty’s Annex, Betty’s Blue Angel Outreach and Betty’s Showers. Ms. Chinn also dedicates time to additional civic service activities through membership in the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.
Among such additional endeavors, Ms. Chinn spearheaded Betty’s House in 2016, a family shelter that 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. Operated in partnership with St. Joseph Hospital, it offers 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.
Finding success through her efforts, 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 and was featured in CNN’s Hero Series in 2018. She has also received commendations from China and is hailed as the “Hong Kong Angel.”
Ms. Chinn attributes her success so far to a strong passion for helping others find comfort and safety. She is eager to identify new ways to sponsor those in need and ultimately 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 any attempt to end homelessness, her goal in five years’ time is to see people being able to fund themselves.
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 live the way she had.