“El hogar es el punto de partida del amor, la esperanza y los sueños.”

Catholic Housing Services (CHS) firmly believes that “home is the starting point…” for thousands of our vulnerable neighbors in Western Washington marginalized by age, disability, homelessness, developmental challenges, and immigration status. We are blessed with exceptional staff who bring skills, creativity, and the compassion born of lived experience to serve residents in dedicated housing located in Cowlitz, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. They identify and respond to urgent, occasionally painful, needs that immigrant families may face due to a lack of resources or fear of authorities.

Estrella Barron, the mom of two teenagers, brings a rich social services background to her position as Property Manager at La Casa de San Juan Diego I and II in Woodland, WA. Every day, she finds new opportunities to fulfill her lifelong goal of improving the lives of immigrants and others living in poverty by pointing them to resources they can use to build better lives.

CHS Program Manager Estrella Barron (third from left), welcomes outside resources, like the staff from Cowlitz Wahkiakum Legal Aid, to help her resident families become full members of their community.

She understands some of their barriers as the daughter of immigrants herself. She and her coworkers strive to help our farmworker residents create homes and communities despite the challenges of language, isolation, and cultural differences exacerbated by the impacts of long hours in the fields.

Estrella brings resources home to farmworker families by scheduling weekend events at the Casas. Since the beginning of the year, residents have met privately at a clinic with attorneys from Cowlitz Wahkiakum Legal Aid to discuss personal issues of immigration and family law. They work to build trust in law enforcement with representatives of the Mexican Consulate, State Labor and Industries, and the local police force. “Agricultural workers are frequently the victims of exploitation and other crimes. I want them to know they have rights, that they are full members of our community.”

Casa’s in-house services can be convenient, like a free notary public, or life-changing, like filing for a rebate of up to $1200 from Washington’s new Working Families Tax Credit. They can provide oral health or relief from pain, like the local mobile dental clinic Estrella invited to the site to address the chronic need for dentistry among her families. “This is huge, given the fact that a lot of residents have no dental care due to lack of insurance. They consider it a privilege.

Visitors from the Mexican Consulate answer questions about civil, labor and immigration issues as well as pressing concerns, like how the consulate can help return deceased community members to family in their home country.

“Home is the starting point…” when “home” is a safe place to gather the tools families need to move forward. Families frequently express their sincere gratitude, agradecimiento sincero, for the ways in which CHS helps them build lives of love, hope, and dreams–el amor, la esperanza y los suenos–for themselves and their children. For more information about CHS properties for farm workers, visit Creating Futures for Farmworkers in Western Washington and Housing Initiatives – Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington (ccsww.org).

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