Nezzie Wade, President
Nezzie is a founding member of AHHA and President of the AHHA Board of Directors. Learning Skills Coordinator, University Learning Center (14 years); retired Sociology Professor HSU and College of the Redwoods, past Chairperson of the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission, Secretary of the Board of Directors of RCAA, and participant in numerous other local organizations and serves on Humboldt Edge Advisory Board; a 40 year resident of Humboldt County. She has provided support as an advocate in the past six years to those experiencing homeless on the streets in Eureka. Creating community through organizing, her network of allied people and agencies creates an impressive resume for leading this AHHA Village project. Her background in teaching, working with low income, high risk populations in diverse community settings, program and project development is well suited to this task.
AHHA Board of Directors. Studied Human Behavior, obtained certificates for Financial Social Worker Coach and Educator and Credit Counselor, and served as President for the Statewide Coalition for Quality Credit Counseling. He has a long history in counseling and working with educators teaching budgeting and financial literacy to individuals and families from diverse backgrounds. Winchell created Consumer Credit Counseling Service and served as the Executive Director utilizing his administrative and organizational skills. His experience in administering the Social Security Payee Program serves AHHA well. Winchell has also served on numerous non-profit boards. His experiences related to understanding mental health and substance abuse issues for people experiencing poverty and homelessness, such as stigma through criminalization, have fueled his passion for economic and social justice.
Jessica Smith, Vice President
Jessica received her MA in Sociology from Humboldt State in 2018. She focused her thesis on food sovereignty and food justice, examining individual motivations for participating in Humboldt County’s Alternative Food Movement. She was a research assistant at the California Center for Rural Policy working on projects focused on food insecurity and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in Humboldt County. She also worked for UC Cooperative Extension conducting interviews for a multi-state, multi-year research project examining rural mother’s access to healthcare. During her time at HSU Jessica began volunteering with the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction. She was initially hired to be the syringe exchange program coordinator and spent a year as the program’s executive director. She is now the community mobilization coordinator for National Harm Reduction Coalition, supporting rural syringe exchange programs across the state. By providing direct services to people who use drugs and people experiencing homelessness, she has seen the importance and necessity of “housing first” and “housing as harm reduction” models.
Debra Thomas, Director
Debra has lived in Humboldt County for over 40 years. She has a degree in culinary arts and is a journeyman baker. Debra is also a longtime advocate for social change in Humboldt County and has helped scores of people find housing, obtain ID, apply for Social Security and access services for mental health, overall wellness and substance abuse. Debra is one of three co-founders of AHHA, a cofounder of CHILL, Community Help in Living Locally in southern Humboldt and an active supporter of SHWT, Southern Humboldt Working Together. She has fed over 10,000 meals on the streets of southern Humboldt and also facilitated extreme weather shelters there. Debra continues to devote her time to meet and serve vulnerable populations in Humboldt County right where they are at.