Health Navigators

Puentes de Esperanza | Health Navigators

2020 brought many challenges to the entire world. Across our organization we have discovered new ways to communicate and support our clients. Hoyleton seized the opportunity to show our clients they are not alone, regardless of current circumstances. The Puentes de Esperanza staff was remarkable in responding to the changes and moved forward to assist those in need during these unprecedented times 

This year, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) piloted a program to assist those in minority and underserved communities across the state. The Public Health and Health Navigator Project is funded by the State of Illinois and is segmented by regions as defined by COVID-19 guidelinesPuentes de Esperanza serves several minority and underserved communities in the Region 4 area. There are several key objectives for the program including, but not limited to healthy lifestyle education, COVID-19 safety, assisting with communication with health care providers where there may be a language barrier or income-related challenges. 

Funding from the Health Navigator program allowed  25 program participants from the Hispanic community to partner with the Puentes de Esperanza team to provide health education and COVID-19 related needs to the Spanish speaking community. While these Health Navigators are not directly employed by Puentes de Esperanza, they do work very closely with our team member Jovany Otero, one of Hoyleton/Puentes de Esperanza’s Bi-lingual Family and Community Advocates. 

Through the Health Navigator program, Puentes de Esperanza has been able to reach over 3000 individuals in the Region 4 area alone. These Navigators took part in distributing PPE in rural areas and during food drives. Participants have also developed videos and flyers for distribution throughout the community. The Navigators have provided information and activities beyond COVID-19 prevention and have shared information about living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining mental health.  

Erika Hernandez, one of the Navigators states “...I am excited to have the opportunity to collaborate and be part of a team in which I can contribute all my knowledge and, at the same time, help people within our community. Personally, I feel that it helps me to stay informed of what is happening as well as in the aspect of mental and emotional health, which I can use for the well-being of my family.”  

It is through partnerships such as the one we have with IDHS and the Pandemic Health Navigators that we are able to continue serving those in our community and work toward equal and fair access to services across the local community and state. 

For more information on Puentes de Esperanza or Hoyleton, please visit us online at 

Funding provided in whole or in part by the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Welcoming Centers for Refugee and Immigrant Services. 

Puentes de Esperanza | Making Life Beautiful Day

Make Life Beautiful Day draws attention to the people and organizations that partner with individuals to build stronger communities. In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing civil unrest, it will take individuals from all walks of life coming together to make our communities a safer, more inclusive place for all. Make Life Beautiful Day challenges each of us to be individuals of action to bring about change for the betterment of our communities. How individuals choose to spread seeds of beauty in their communities depends upon a person’s interest. A kind word to a person can be a soothing balm. The vibrancy of art, in its many forms, awakens and challenges our collective consciousness, or the use of one’s time, energy, and labor can be used to empower individuals within our communities. The power and capacity to beautify our world is limited only by our imaginations and our willingness to recognize that when we work together for the good of all, communities are healthier.

As an organization, Hoyleton continued working to make lives better by supporting youth and families during the pandemic. In both big and small ways Hoyleton is committed to ensuring individuals are seen, heard, and provided with the tools to care for themselves and their loved ones, especially in the midst of uncertainty. During the COVID-19 pandemic, resources were scarce. Basic goods such as toilet paper became a prized commodity. Finding the essentials usually involved being the first in line at stores to buy available supplies. Families and individuals with limited access to transportation, or who needed to rely upon others for their transportation, were often met with empty shelves when they were finally able to make it to the store. Hoyleton’s Puentes de Esperanza (Bridges of Hope) team monitored the situation in immigrant communities within St. Clair and Madison counties and took action to coordinate food distribution sites to help impacted families. By remaining in daily contact with families and community partners who share a similar mission, Hoyleton provided food for over 100 families with 400 plus individuals served. The Puentes de Esperanza team worked tirelessly to box supplies and make sure individuals had the required provisions, including cleaning supplies. Puentes de Esperanza team member Jovany Otero remarked, “The takeaway for me is how considerate people can be; there were families that would carpool together so that people without transportation would not be left out of different food distributions.” 

In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to share stories of hope as individuals commit to making their communities a better place for all. We encourage you to share your stories about building up your friends and neighbors with us. Working together, we can create a highly positive impact on our communities. For more information regarding how you can volunteer to be a part of the Hoyleton family, please call our Volunteer Coordinator, Meghan Murphy, at 618.688.7092. 

#PuentesdeEsperanza #Hoyleton #WeAreAllInThisTogether #HoyletonCares #MakeLifeBeautifulDay

Hoyleton HALO Project | National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month

As a nation, our attention is turned to dealing with COVID-19 and helping our communities adjust to the realities of shelter-in-place. While self-isolation slows down the transmission of COVID-19, the flip-side is that self-isolation leaves many individuals vulnerable to abuse. April is National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month. It is not often that individuals catch a glimpse into the lives of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC). Human trafficking is both in plain sight and hidden. At Hoyleton, we have a unique program, Healing And Loving Oneself (HALO), which offers hope and a means of recovery and healing for youth that have been sexually exploited. Below, a Hoyleton HALO Advocate and a client share their reflections on the journey to the other side.  

To whoever is entering HALO,

It will be tough at first and you will be tested a lot but in the end, it will all be worth it! What is HALO to me? HALO helps people like me stay out of the streets. How? I used to think of running the streets every day. Now, I am almost seventeen, and all I want is to be successful in life. I want to go to college and have a good job and a nice place to stay. Alexis has never given up on me even at the times I wanted to give up on myself. She has stayed consistent and became a very important person in my life. I’ve learned that running away from your problems only makes things worse because eventually, your problems are going to deal with you. 

-Female Youth

I know from my experience of working with victims and survivors of trafficking they often feel loss, trauma, a sense of hopelessness, and other challenging emotions. Individuals describe to me not feeling “normal” compared to others. As an advocate, I want to inspire hope for the individuals in HALO. Every client is unique, as is every session I do with them.  When I start working with them, I try to build a relationship by keeping our session topics light. We try to get to know each other and understand each other’s expectations. It is as important for me to understand their expectations as it is for them to understand mine.

As we begin to progress into the program, we will identify emotions and reactions to situations; this is important for them to learn as it sets the foundation for their coping skills. I do my best to help the client fill the need they are lacking (love, trust, knowledge, comfort, support, skills, etc.). During our weekly sessions, I start by checking in with them. How their week has been? What their struggles have been? Any good news to share? Sometimes the good news is the hardest part for them to identify.

Sessions have a loose structure as I let my client decide where to take the day’s session. Many of the clients struggle with love, trust, and acceptance, so I model to them what a healthy relationship should look like in their life. I do this by being there for them when they call, text, or message me. I listen to them when they are upset or confused. When they are unhappy with me, we talk through that and how they feel about the situation. I also talk with them about their experiences and help them understand their emotions. The clients get to practice the tools we worked on during our sessions when they communicate with me. These new skills help them feel empowered, and it helps them cope with what’s happening in their life. Transparency plays a key role in the client’s recovery. An individual needs to be open with me about where they are struggling in the process, so I know what our next steps should be. Best case scenario, I work with the client on life skills to move towards independence or stability. Worst case scenario, I am the one person in the client’s life that they know will not give up on them, judge them, and will always be there to pick them up when they fall.

While individuals cannot volunteer to work with survivors, they can partner with the Prevention Department. Donations in the form of gift cards are appreciated as youth are transitioning and moving into a place of security. Advocacy is another aspect of influencing the conversation surrounding sexual abuse and exploitation. The Prevention Department is available to educate individuals and groups on the topic to bring awareness to our communities. If you are interested, please contact the Prevention Department at 618.688.4739. Together, we can protect our children’s future.


#Hoyleton #HALO #NationalSexualAbuseAwarenessMonth

Child Abuse Prevention Month and COVID-19

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. Usually, this is a time for nonprofits and supporting organizations to promote the support systems which strengthen and educate families on parenting, healthy relationships, and managing stress. As always, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services is standing with our families and communities as we shelter-in-place together because of COVID-19. 

Hoyleton is taking every precaution to protect the youth in our care. Our case managers are concerned about the emotional and physical needs of our youth and continue to check on their well-being daily through video conferencing and sometimes by standing outside a window or on the front porch. Hoyleton’s Counseling and Care team continue to advocate for the mental health of the families and individuals we support.  We are aware that families are making difficult decisions because of a lack of resources. 

While living in isolation is our new “normal,” it requires understanding what factors we can control. Managing stress is important and a necessary part of preventing abuse. Be mindful of stress signals:

• Feelings of anger or irritation
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Crying easily
• Arguing with your partner or children
• Overeating or not eating
• Changes in sleep patterns

Communication and self-awareness are essential. Reach out to individuals if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Challenge yourself to focus on the present moment and not the next day or the unknown. Stay connected to friends and neighbors by using technology to break down the barriers erected because of isolation. Have a FaceTime call over dinner with friends, family, or co-workers to stay connected. 

Together, we will get through this. We see you, we hear you, we understand your fears and anxiety. Hoyleton is here to provide support and be a means of hope. We are all in this together. If you or a loved one needs assistance, please call Hoyleton Youth and Family Services at 618.688.4744.