There are a number of issues that we are experiencing with both existing clients as well as all the new referrals. We have several men and women fleeing domestic violence; people currently living with kids in their car or currently in hotels without any next step options. With limited services from the DV shelters here in town we have stepped in to get these clients food, hotel vouchers, diapers, clothes, and other necessary essentials as they try to start to stabilize their life. Another common situation we have been experiencing is people who have been staying with friends or couch surfing are being kicked out of their arrangements because of quarantining and fear of the virus sneaking into the house or apartment. Our partnership with Transformation House has been essential as we navigate through this time. We have been able get several clients into housing there as they are one of the few shelters still accepting individuals, but we have also been providing emergency financial assistance for rent or security deposits so our clients have a chance to stabilize without fear of being kicked out.
Another startling issue that we have encountered is with ICS. When someone receives an ICS voucher, they then have to secure housing that will accept the voucher. Once this happens the individual pays security deposit and first month’s rent after that, ICS has to come out to do an inspection to ensure that the unit is up to code. ICS is currently not doing inspections; which means that no vouchers will be issued to pay rent for new clients. We have had several people present with no other options, most of them have already used relationships around them to help secure security deposit and first months’ rent. We have verified with ICS that at this time, there will be no inspections until further notice as well as clients will not be reimbursed for months covered while they are shut down. Most service providers agencies are not helping with emergency eviction notices, they focus on assisting with first month rent or security deposit. Our first step with these clients facing this very serious issues is to reach out to their landlord to see if there can be an agreement made due to the current situation, some landlords are unwilling or unable to make these arrangements. In this case we are faced with the decision to pay rent or let our client face an eviction. These are big checks that we haven’t had to pay ever before, as well as we don’t know how long we will have to help.
Food and Essentials: We do our best to stock the office with snacks, nonperishable meals, as well as household/hygiene essentials as clients often need support to be sure they have what they need. We have been working closely with Paul’s Pantry to ensure clients that are eligible can get the food that they need, as well as supporting our clients in going to pick up food in some DV situations to ensure the safety of our clients. We get calls daily asking for food, bread, and other essentials due to many situations from the virus. Some can’t afford items, due to not working from closures of the virus; some can’t find the items, due to others hoarding during this crisis; some have shared what they had with others in community and are now running out of what they have. Our first priority is to connect individuals with food programs in community, we have been in regular communication with Paul’s Pantry, Boys and Girls Club, GBPAS meal programs, as well as a host of community churches that are offering assistance. Even while utilizing these other programs we cannot keep up with the demand of food of clients, especially with the amount of crisis clients we are seeing over the past week.
The virus is causing new barriers for our clients; we are also facing the obstacle of other agencies with closed doors or limited services so very few ways to currently collaborate to support our clients. With the climate, resources, and community changing day by day we continue to be as flexible as possible, but we also remain committed to our mission to holistically serve our clients. The list below is some of the immediate ways we would be using the funds to support our clients through this pandemic. As time continues to pass and the situation continues to adapt, we will be sure to clearly record how the money was spent.
-Emergency Housing Support: This will include rent assistance due to the current ICS situation. Money from this area will also be used to pay fees for living arrangements at Transformation House, so clients can get stabilized and start to work the program. This will also include hotel vouchers for those with no other housing options due to being displaced because of the virus as well as those that are fleeing violent situations that have no other options due to shelter closures other than to be put in hotels.
-Food and Essentials: We will be able to keep our offices supplied with food and basic essentials so when clients come in while in crisis we will have supplies to help them in the moment, so we can plug them into more long-term community resources. This will not only include food, this will also include items like deodorant, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste and other needed necessities. This will also include in situations of DV, where we would normally work with St Vincent De Paul or Goodwill or other nonprofits, who are now closed due to the virus, be able to get victims who are fleeing situation clothes as many of them just have the clothes on them and their children’s back. Lastly, since most clients are home not working, we have received a lot of calls to assist with copays for essential medication.
-Transportation: Due to the buses not running at full capacity, we have had to work with clients to find other means of transportation to and from work. In some cases, this means pairing clients up with volunteers that will help with rides and being able to assist our volunteers with gas cards. In other cases, this has meant working with Whatsoever You Do, Spokes of Hope program to get clients a bike, purchasing a bike lock to ensure the bike is safe during work hours. Lastly, this would also include Uber or Lyft rides in some of our DV/SA/IPV/Crime Victim cases.
We have applied for emergency fund assistance, but there is a turn around time with those dollars. Being a new nonprofit organization we are very concerned about our funds and supplies being depleted.
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