COVID-19 Update – May 11, 2020
Dear Friends of Family Promise,
As the effects of the pandemic continue to be felt around the world, locally, Family Promise of Bergen County continues to respond to the growing needs of families who are homeless or precariously housed. In addition, massive layoffs have increased the number of families, individuals and yes, children, struggling with hunger and food insecurity. Here is the latest on Family Promise’s outreach to those in need and our response during COVID-19.
Walk-In Dinner Program, Hackensack
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Director Julia Orlando sought to reduce the number of residents in the county shelter in order to allow for social distancing. Little by little, shelter residents were moved into local motels. The last 20 or so were placed on April 17th. Our main concern was how the former residents and those from the community who utilize the dinner program would continue to be fed. As they are known to do, a small corps of Family Promise volunteers stepped forward and agreed to pack meals to-go, deliver them to the former shelter residents at their motel rooms, and serve the community meals off of the loading dock. I am moved by the unshakable dedication of our volunteers and reminded daily that if everyone does something, we will get through this.
Working with World Central Kitchen in Englewood
The most pressing need at this moment is food. It’s hard for me to comprehend that I am writing this about Bergen County. Yet, when we reached out to the leaders of Englewood, where we hope to move our shelter program, they all mentioned that food insecurity was a dire issue for families, teen mothers with infants, seniors, immigrants, those with mental illness, and, of course, the homeless, including families who are doubled up with relatives and friends during this unprecedented time.
That’s when one of our long-time volunteers connected us to World Central Kitchen to determine if they could help. WCK, best known for their ability to respond quickly in the event of a disaster and provide meals to those who need it most, launched a pilot program in response to the pandemic. WCK partners with local restaurants to provide the meals and local organizations to distribute them. The goal is to keep local restaurants afloat and feed the community.
One week ago, we learned that, in response to our appeal, World Central Kitchen is going to provide 400 meals, six day per week for two weeks. Family Promise volunteers will distribute them. We know that the effects of the pandemic will last far beyond two weeks and what will happen beyond that remains to be seen. Together with community leaders, we are exploring ways to extend the program. But what we know is that every night 400 people will get a dinner meal when they might not have otherwise. Once again, Family Promise is finding ways to address the quickly changing needs of families and others during COVID-19.
The Network, New Leaf, and Post Shelter Programs
Like most of us, the families and children in our Network, New Leaf and Post Shelter Programs are still sheltering in place. They may be bored and more than a little stir-crazy but they are making the most of this precious time with their children and taking advantage of time off to explore other options. Two mothers began online courses yesterday. Nearly 100% of the families continue to pay into their savings accounts even though we suspended that requirement when they lost their jobs due to lack of childcare. Case management sessions take place with energy, enthusiasm, and frequency. Family Promise has temporarily housed two families in hotels during the pandemic. One arrived a week ago and the other has already moved into their own apartment. Case Manager Luz Galeano developed such rapport with the mother that she asked to remain part of our program to take part in case management, learn smart financial management, and benefit from the guidance and support that only Family Promise offers. We have distributed grocery store gift cards and supplies to families and clothing to fast-growing children. Family Promise is in the business of finding a way to say yes to families in times of crisis. During COVID-19 we are saying yes in unique ways and making a real difference.
COVID-19 Update – April 13, 2020
Dear Friends of Family Promise,
Family Promise continues to provide shelter and support to families who are homeless and food to those who are hungry. Here is the latest on Family Promise’s response to these acute issues facing our community during COVID-19.
The Network, New Leaf and Post Shelter Programs
All of the previously homeless parents and children in our Network, New Leaf and Post Shelter Programs are safely housed in apartments, with friends, or in a hotel. Most parents spend the day with their children because either their jobs have closed or they have lost their childcare due to the closing of daycare centers. Living in small quarters with children can be challenging in the best of times. Sheltering in place with little ones takes this to a new level. (see article below.)
During weekly Zoom gatherings run by our family case managers, parents brainstorm questions such as, “How do I shop for groceries safely without my children when no one wants to come out of their homes to watch them?” and “How do we stay good neighbors when the kids are more active than usual and the couple downstairs is working from home?” Creative solutions and emotional support are just two of the resulting outcomes.
The face-to-face contact in these gatherings, albeit virtual, is extremely important. The parents are friends. Seeing each other and knowing that they are experiencing similar issues brings real comfort. There is lots of laughter and sometimes a few tears but families sign off from the meetings feeling more relaxed and renewed.
Regular, individual case management “meetings” are also continuing. Case managers have daily contact with the families as they all work to make the most of this unprecedented time. The personalized support that Family Promise is known for will definitely be necessary in the days to come.
We know that many homeless families are doubled up with relatives or friends. Small, shared apartments make social distancing impossible, accelerating the spread of COVID19. Read The New York Times article, “The Coronavirus Class Divide: Space and Privacy“, describing space as a luxury, especially during a pandemic and how a lack of space impacts physical as well as emotional health.
Walk-in Dinner Program
Family Promise has been providing food to hungry people for 29 years via our Walk-in Dinner. Our dinner service has continued uninterrupted even as the number of volunteers able to go to the shelter has fallen dramatically. Although the population in the shelter has been reduced to allow for social distancing, the number of to-go meals needed each night for former shelter residents and people from the community in need of a free meal is on the rise.
With more people losing their jobs, Family Promise is exploring ways to ensure that ANYONE from the community in need of a free meal has access to one. We are keeping a close eye on the number of to-go meals served daily so that we are poised to respond when there is a spike in the demand (which most experts predict there will be).
We are keeping our promise to the community to be here for them during challenging times. As always, we are grateful for your support. Thank you.
COVID-19 Update – March 30, 2020
Dear Friends of Family Promise,
The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic affect everyone, including homeless families and people who are hungry. Family Promise is in the business of helping all those people, and we are continuing to do that even in these trying days.
Network, New Leaf, and Post Shelter Programs
We are continuing to help families experiencing homelessness:
A week ago, the rotating Network closed until further notice when the last family was able to move in with a friend, reducing their risk of exposure. We had moved the family to the Family Center with the help of volunteers from Christ Episcopal Church in Ridgewood but realized even those arrangements made the family and volunteers vulnerable.
Our case managers continue to work with the families from the Network, New Leaf Apartment, and Post Shelter programs via Zoom and by phone each day. Families are exploring online courses to make the most of the opportunity this time has given them. As challenges of employment, childcare, and food security arise, our case managers are available to help find solutions.
We also just accepted a mom and three children with no place to go. They are eager to be a part of our Network program so we are supporting them as they stay at a motel. Case management will be virtual as we do what we can to help this family.
And we are continuing our workshops for the families, albeit virtually. In fact, the families have been clear in their desire to keep the workshops going. “I always get something I need” said one participant, “but now we really need to support each other during this difficult time.”
A very different environment, but Family Promise is there for those who need help. This is what we do.
Executive Director Kate Duggan explains some of the extraordinary challenges facing homeless families during COVID-19 in an article which appeared in NorthJersey.com over the weekend and The Record today. Read the article here.
Walk-in Dinner Program
The nightly Walk-in Dinner is being held with a few changes. As an attempt to keep the virus out of the shelter, the County determined that only shelter residents will be served meals in the dining room. However, our commitment to feeding the community continues. We provide approximately 40 – 50 take-out meals nightly to those who live locally and are in need of a free meal.
Unfortunately, some groups are unable to serve the dinners, and some cannot provide the food. When needed, Family Promise buys the dinner and Family Promise Staff and Board, along with the team from Friendship House, make sure those who are hungry are fed.
And, Something Out of the Box
The Department of Health referred a family, a 70-year old mom and her 50-year old daughter to us. They simply needed food, and it was Friday afternoon and no one could help them. Family Promise did . . . and we delivered bags of food to them last week. This is NOT what we do . . . wait—it IS what we do when people call on us. Because we accept almost no government funding, and because we really care, we answer the phone and see what we can do.
The challenges of COVID-19 affect everyone. Now more than ever, Family Promise is here for homeless families and people who are hungry.
COVID-19 Update – March 16, 2020
Dear Friends of Family Promise,
Thank you for your continued commitment to the families and individuals we serve, and to Family Promise during these challenging times as we deal with the uncertainties of COVID-19. As we closely follow guidance from national, state, and local officials, we want you to know the steps we are taking to ensure we can continue to provide services to families who are homeless and to people who are experiencing hunger. We appreciate your dedication and we are committed to keeping our volunteers and those in our programs safe.
What we are doing to help now
Unfortunately, homelessness and hunger are not suspended during this crisis; our services are still critically needed, possibly more than ever. The following are steps we are taking to ensure the people we serve are safe and their basic needs are met:
- As our shelter model, the Family Promise Network, engages volunteers and families in shared spaces, we are following the lead of our local officials to minimize risk. For families currently in our program, we are stringently following best practices for the prevention of COVID-19. We are adjusting our sheltering model to limit the number of volunteers and family members who have direct interaction. Families in our New Leaf Apartment Program are being encouraged to follow local public health guidelines, including “social distancing.”
- We are encouraging new families who reach out to us for shelter to attempt to “shelter in place” to limit exposure. If this is not possible, we will assess each family separately to determine how we can best assist them.
- Low-income families can potentially be very hard-hit by the health crisis through the loss of wages, jobs, transportation, childcare, and more. They will need our support now and into the future. Families in the Network, families that are currently in our New Leaf Apartments, and families who are in our Post-Shelter Program, are all receiving personalized support via phone and video conferencing from our dedicated case managers. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we will also provide the families with gift cards, household cleaning items, baby and personal care products, etc., as needed.
- Our Walk-in Dinner continues to address hunger in our community during these trying times. Our volunteer groups are still preparing dinner for up to 130 people per night for those needing a free meal. We are closely monitoring that number and it will be adjusted upward if we see a rise in the number of people seeking meals.
How you can help now
While we are ALL feeling uncertain at this time, the families, individuals and children we serve need our help more than ever, and we have a plan to provide that help. We ask that you please continue to support Family Promise in any way you can, so we are able to provide services to people who are especially vulnerable during this crisis.
Please stay in touch by checking our website and by following us on social media:
Twitter: @macduggan (Executive Director Kate Duggan)
During this time, the best way to contact the staff is by email. If you have specific questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to me directly at email@example.com and I will get back to you as soon as I am able. If you would like to speak with me, please leave a number where I can reach you.
Family Promise of Bergen County was built on the care and concern for others, community response and flexibility, and we have already seen so many reach out and step forward to help during this time. Thank you all for your continued dedication to the families, individuals and children we serve.
Information for volunteers regarding COVID-19 – March 13, 2020
Dear Family Promise Volunteers,
Thank you for your continued commitment to the families, individuals, and to Family Promise in general during this challenging time as we deal with the Coronavirus. We appreciate your dedication and as an organization are committed to keeping you and those in our programs safe.
SPECIAL NOTE for Walk-in Dinner volunteers
At this time, the dinner is proceeding as scheduled. Everyone entering the dining room – staff, volunteers, residents, and guests – are required to use hand sanitizer as an extra precaution. If, however, you and your dinner volunteers decide not to stay and serve, we ask that you alert Family Promise in advance and that you bring the food to Hackensack at 3:45 pm, as usual.
We will be updating this information as the situation changes and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
All of us at Family Promise thank you for your ongoing generous hospitality to our guests.
Kate Duggan, Executive Director