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Opinion » Guest Opinion

Guest Opinion: Hope of deliverance

by Paulina Angel

Paulina Angel. Photo: Courtesy Paulina Angel
Paulina Angel. Photo: Courtesy Paulina Angel  

Looking back at the last two years, it feels like an eternity. I remember it feeling like the first part of "Avengers Endgame" when the pandemic hit: the news would show the freeway with hardly any cars on the road, businesses were closed, and you would go on social media and the events you were following were all saying CANCELED. The only time that you would see a crowd would be at five in the morning with people waiting in line at the local market, hoping that you can get at least a four-pack of toilet paper. The major rough part of all of this was the daily broadcast from your local news station of the many new cases of COVID, and how many of those have died, hoping that you, your family, your friends won't become a statistic. It really did feel like the sun wasn't shining and everything just felt so blue and gray, but in 2021, hope was on the way — literally.

Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and run by the California Department of Health Care Services, California Hope, or CalHOPE, provides free outreach, crisis counseling, and support services to Californians who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A couple of ways that we provide services to individuals are through our CalHOPE Connect online chat that can be accessed via a computer, smartphone, or tablet. The other option is our warm line, through which individuals can call in and speak with one of our counselors. Our peer crisis counselors are made up of individuals who specialize in, as well as belong to, many intersectional communities throughout the Golden State, from youth and young adults to parents and caregivers to veterans to Latinx, Black, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and LGBTQs.

Since the formation of CalHOPE, the many great teams of peer crisis counselors and outreach coordinators have been able to lift up the spirits of those whose faith had dropped. The message of our project has been so strong that it was great getting emails from elected officials in different cities, requesting Zoom presentations about CalHOPE and how they can effectively spread the message of our services. Reports from our counselors were generally positive with every interaction they've been able to make from the online and warm line programs.

As pandemic restrictions started to gradually lift toward the end of the summer last year, our teams were able to go out into the community, set up at food banks and vaccination sites, and have great in-person sessions with those who were already feeling overwhelmed. Our teams were able to finally meet each other in person, having only seen each other through a computer screen, and were able to get together to do trainings on having in-person interactions with those we meet out in the field. The UnityHOPE team was even able to set up at the Greater Palm Springs Pride celebration last November with help from Trans Community Project, where I serve as director. It proved to be a very big hit with dozens of LGBTQA attendees, talking to our counselors on site, adding to the festive vibes of an in-person Pride celebration, returning and participating, at local Transgender Day of Remembrance events in the Inland Empire.

Now in 2022, mask mandates are starting to be lifted, people are returning to offices, jobs continue to return, and COVID is hopefully on the decline, though we are still seeing people dying from the virus and becoming infected, and new variants emerge. Now, more than ever, people are keeping their mental health in check, and lucky for them, CalHOPE is still here offering them services through our warm lines as well as in-person, and still setting up at local events. It goes to show that these services are still needed, and our many peer crisis counselors are more than happy to speak and listen to those seeking help.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite songs from my youth by Paul McCartney that goes, "We live in hope of deliverance, from the darkness that surrounds us," and I am happy that CalHOPE is doing just that.

For more information on how you can utilize our services, visit us at CalHope.org.

Paulina Angel is an LGBTQ activist and songwriter/singer from Indio/Coachella Valley, California. She attended both College of the Desert as a music major and City College of San Francisco as an LGBTQ studies major. She serves as director of Trans Community Project, a member of the board of directors for Palm Springs Pride, an advisory board/co-founder of East Coachella Valley Pride, and works with CalHope's Unity Hope. She also helped co-found the Every One initiative with Goldenvoice, and her story is documented in the textbook, "Introduction to Transgender Studies" by Ardel Thomas. She also writes and records music and has her own indie label, PMI Music Group/Paulaphone.

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