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Homecare workers look at forming a cooperative

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KEARNEY — The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center invites anyone interested in working in the homecare industry to a public meeting at 5 p.m. Sunday in the Antelope Room in the Nebraskan Student Union on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.

The meeting will focus on the proposed organization of the Midwest Compassion Homecare Cooperative.

A group of caregivers has been working with NCDC to explore the creation of a worker-owned homecare business. Through the exploratory phase, the group determined that central Nebraska faces the same crisis in eldercare that is being experienced all over the country, according to Cindy Houlden, cooperative development specialist for the NCDC.

Nebraska-based assisted living and skilled nursing facilities are closing at an alarming rate, leaving many people wondering where to turn for care. Also, Nebraska caregivers, both in home care and facility care, are underpaid and undervalued, Houlden said.

The NCDC has been working on the concept with four caregivers from throughout the region. She has also connected with about 30 caregivers from areas such as Arapahoe, Holdrege, Kearney, Grand Island and Hastings. Sunday’s meeting in Kearney will cover the entire tri-city region.

“We’re ready to invite others into the conversation. We’re looking at forming a cooperative of people who live within 120 miles of the tri-city area,” Houlden said.

She said this co-op would be for people who provide what she called “companion care” for older people, not care for people she described as “medically fragile.”

A homecare worker cooperative is a private business that is owned and operated by the individuals who work for the business. Each member owns one share of the business. Member-owners set the co-op’s wages, benefits and policies.

Worker cooperatives traditionally have higher pay, higher employee retention and higher levels of worker satisfaction. Members have a greater influence on the quality of care, and profits go back to the member-owners, Houlden said.

Worker cooperatives provide an alternative to independent homecare workers. Members want to have a say in how their homecare business is run through a democratic decision-making process.

Houlden, a cooperative business development specialist, joined the NCDC in August 2018. She is a graduate of Kearney State College with a degree in international studies — marketing emphasis and economics, with a minor in political science.

For more information, contact Houlden at choulden2@unl.edu or 308-293-6417, or contact Deborah Craig, cooperative developer, at deborah@nwcdc.coop or 360-441-1766.

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