Guest Columnist

Our most vulnerable neighbors are hit hardest by public health emergency

Johnson County service provider: Clients are just one lost paycheck away from being evicted.

(Liz Martin/The Gazette)
(Liz Martin/The Gazette)

We know that these are scary and uncertain times. At CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank, we hear every day from people in our community how the COVID-19 virus is causing upheaval in their lives. Many who were already trying to make it through the day without a safety net are now faced with additional obstacles, such as the loss of pay from their jobs, having to find a way to care for and educate their children with schools unexpectedly closed, and figuring out a way to get basic supplies without risking their health. It’s a lot to deal with. We want you to know that we’re here to help.

CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank, formerly The Crisis Center, has a long history of supporting our neighbors in times of crisis. From providing case management in response to tornadoes in 2006, to providing services despite having to evacuate our building in the flood of 2008, our organization was built to be nimble under changing circumstances. In the face of crisis, CommUnity has always been here to provide the highest quality services possible. It’s in our name and it’s in our mission.

Many of our clients are just one lost paycheck away from being evicted, one medical emergency away from not being able to afford diapers for their baby, or one piece of bad news away from an emotional crisis. Our most vulnerable neighbors and friends are being hit the hardest by this public health emergency.

There may be some of you reading this who have never experienced this level of uncertainty before. Maybe you’ve had a stable job for many years with family and friends capable of helping you in difficult times. You’ve faced some obstacles along the way, but you’ve never needed to rely on an agency for financial or emotional support. This may be the first time in your life that your stable foundation has been shaken to this degree. We’re here for you, too.

We are continually monitoring recommendations by the CDC and IDPH and making adjustments to support the health and safety of our clients, volunteers, and staff. We know that our services are critical to helping our community survive this crisis and we are taking every step to provide safe services. We support people who are going through this level of crisis on an individual level every day. This crisis is being felt by the collective, which means collective action is needed to ensure the safety and support of our community. We’re in this together.

If this situation has proved anything, it’s that our services are a necessity. Yesterday, one of our staff members answered 67 phone calls from people calling to see if our Food Bank is still open, because they needed help. Other staff have witnessed people come to us in tears because they are so relieved that they can get food.

Everyone is experiencing stress, anxiety and fear in this time of extreme uncertainty. For many, their normal self-care activities have been disrupted by the need for social distance. We know that many people are feeling more depressed or anxious right now. People who were already feeling lonely are now even more isolated. Many callers to our crisis line are concerned about loved ones or worry about whether they might be getting sick. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we want you to reach out. You can call or text or crisis line at 1-855-325-4296 or chat with a trained volunteer at IowaCrisisChat.org.

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We deeply appreciate everyone who has reached out so far asking how they can help. The best way you can support our efforts right now is through a financial gift at builtbycommunity.org/donate.

For the most up to date listing of our current available services, volunteer opportunities, and donation acceptance policy, visit builtbycommunity.org/covid19.

Becci Reedus is executive director of CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank in Johnson County.

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