At Family Promise, desperate times call for creative measures.
The COVID-19 crisis has been a proving ground for Family Promise Affiliates, volunteers, and partners across the country as service providers resort to unique and creative measures that ensure vulnerable families to continue to receive the support they need while working to regain independence.
Over the next several weeks we’ll be highlighting the unique ways Affiliates are serving families battling homelessness during this challenging time.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but the same can be said about helping families in distress, and Family Promise of Morris County, NJ, exemplifies this philosophy. The Affiliate is taking a leadership role in many of the innovative services providers in Morris County are developing to support families and individuals battling poverty and homelessness in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Affiliate is leading a team of nonprofits in the community that offer housing, shelter, and food solutions for those in need. The group is combining resources and expenses and identifying shared grants rather than competing individually for funding.
One example: the 25 housing vouchers they have obtained for those in the community facing homelessness. Existing relationships with area landlords have facilitated the housing search, and in some cases, Bjornson says, landlords have proactively reached out to the group inquiring after prospective tenants.
“Landlords are making virtual tours of their properties so families can view them online instead of visiting in person,” she says. “And in the spirit of social distancing, we have teams spaced throughout the day to make repairs and ready apartments for move-in.”
Bjornson says that although face-to-face interactions are limited, needs have not diminished – if anything, they’ve increased. The overarching theme of this crisis, she notes, is healthcare.
“Without housing, how can you isolate? How can you shower and disinfect?” she asks.
She says many communities are seeing an increase in mental health issues like anxiety and depression as well as escalated substance use and domestic abuse and notes that these problems must be addressed to prevent people from going to the hospital for non-COVID-related issues. To this end, the consortium of nonprofits has modified a mobile outreach program to offer remote support connecting to those in need to Medicaid, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, food and utility assistance, substance abuse support, and other services.
It’s working to install public hand-washing stations in places like soup kitchens and food distribution sites. And the team has gotten the community’s Cold Blue warming center, where people can escape the elements, to delay their March closing until at least May. Family Promise of Morris County’s own drop-in center, Our Promise, which provides community-wide access to mail, computers, internet, bathrooms, and assistance connecting to social services, has implemented appropriate health safety measures and continues to operate in new ways, providing those in need with essential items and resource connections.
Families in the Affiliate’s shelter program are currently self-quarantining in area motels, but plans are underway to relocate them to vacant apartments made available by a local housing option. Working with Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore home improvement and donation centers, Family Promise is furnishing the apartments, and volunteers, who are dropping off food and supplies to families at motels, will continue to do so once they move into their apartments. In addition, Family Promise is in regular communication with graduate families, and the program team and volunteers are ensuring they have access to remote case management as needed, as well as food deliveries, gift cards, and toiletry and hygiene items.
“It takes some strategic and thoughtful planning, but by working together we’re able to make a bigger difference,” Bjornson states.