“There are two words that have become part of our every day language over the past few months: “COVID-19” and “Coronavirus.” Not a day goes by where we don’t talk about the pandemic that is currently impacting our community and nation as a whole. I think about how 10 years from now, we will all be telling the younger generations about that time in 2020 when people got sick, lost jobs, and all the stores closed. That being said, there’s another piece of this story that myself and other social service providers will also be talking about – the community response to COVID-19.
While COVID-19 has been shaking our community to its’ core, I’ve seen community providers and agencies coming together more than ever before. As we see an increase in need and crisis, we have strengthened our collaborations and teamwork. I work predominantly out of Brown County and have been on the front lines of the homeless system’s response to COVID-19, and I have truly witnessed people stepping out of their comfort zones or outside the normal scope of their jobs to meet the need. When these is an unsheltered household found on the streets, the Homeless Outreach Team responds, evaluates the situation, and calls the area shelters and motel voucher programs until a placement is found. We saw other shelters in our community have a need for more meal programs and beds, and 5 other agencies said, “Call me! We can help!” We had an entirely new organization start in Brown County called Operation Community Cares. They are made up entirely of volunteers and donations, and they are delivering basic need items, food, etc. to our program clients and others who are in need.
At Newcap, we have seen a substantial increase in phone calls for help. We are seeing a whole new population of people who are in need now due to losing their jobs. We are seeing folks who cannot get into shelters and need immediate assistance. For all of the calls we receive, we are screening and evaluating for Coordinated Entry and working to get the clients the assistance that they need right away. Sometimes that means connecting that person with immediate shelter, other times that means connecting clients with food resources. Regardless of the need at hand, the community resources have stepped up to the plate and are working together better than ever before.
As I help my staff and other area providers problem solve and find housing solutions, I have been finding myself saying “this is the marathon we’ve all been training for.” All the work and “practice” that we’ve done up until this COVID-19 pandemic is being tested and utilized. I couldn’t be more proud of how our community is stepping up to help each other out. Together, we will get through this.”
- Erika Villacrez, Coordinated Entry Lead Specialist/Housing Case Manager Supervisor