Ana Calles

29% of individuals experiencing homelessness in Sonoma County are Latinx. We sat down with Ana Calles, one of COTS’ bilingual care-managers to talk about how her position supports COTS’ mission to implement policies and practices of social equity that empower a diverse and inclusive environment for staff, volunteers, clients, programs, and the communities we serve.

What brought you to COTS? 

I was previously homeless and stayed in transitional housing with my child. I have always held shelters in my heart and have a passion for helping people. COTS has always been known as a great shelter, and they have many important programs that support our most vulnerable population. When I came for my interview, I knew it was going to be the right fit.  


Tell us about your previous experience. 

I grew up in low-income housing projects with all different types of people. I have always been drawn to helping people and can relate to many different situations. I decided to get my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology as well as my master’s degree in Public Administration. I volunteered to advocate for childcare and early education and support low-income parents. I was on the Board of Directors at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and a Warmline Specialist for a year.  

Tell us about a typical day in the life of a bilingual care manager. 

My day-to-day care management load varies. When I see my monolingual Spanish-speaking clients, I am usually working with them to try and find employment/income and/or citizenship paperwork. Working as a bilingual care manager, I am spending more time with clients, giving them rides to the doctor’s office, providing verbal translation, and calling Partnership for rides.  I also make many types of appointments and translate all paperwork and texts that clients receive in English. I focus a lot on job searches where the employer does not mention applicants needing a social security number. 

What are some of the biggest challenges facing your Spanish-speaking clients? 

It can be very challenging to navigate employment options for my clients because some are undocumented. They struggle to find an employer that will hire them without requiring a social security number verification. 

Most of my Spanish-speaking clients struggle to find employment and because of their citizenship status, they cannot receive government assistance, such as SNAP, GA, or SSI. These clients typically have to find an under-the-table type of job and still pay for a room to rent, as they usually cannot be referred to housing due to their lack of social security numbers. While it is a struggle to find them housing, I also make sure they have adequate resources by making sure our documents here at COTS are in Spanish. If they are not, I translate them.