In times of crisis, organizations like Interfaith Community Services kick into high gear, but with fewer people to do all the necessary jobs.
It’s informative to consider that half of the cities in the U.S. with the highest homeless populations are in California. That is Interfaith’s core constituency, but in the crisis it’s expanding its net.
Greg Anglea, chief executive officer of the Escondido-based Interfaith, updated The Times-Advocate on what the nonprofit is doing during this pandemic lockdown.
“We are working to meet the emergency basic needs of all the low income and vulnerable people we serve,” he said. To do that they are cutting through the red tape often associated with obtaining such services.
“For low income individuals and families who would normally turn to us for emergency groceries, rather than coming in for a deep dive assessment, we are setting up go packages,” he said. Those who need them can go to the door and pick them up at the Escondido headquarters located at 550 West Washington Ave.
They are also doing home deliveries to the homebound.
“We’ve modified our morning meal program,” said Anglea. “Rather than have a large congregated meal in our dining hall, we are doing to go food packages. We need donations to put together sack lunches for those meals. We have a need for deli meat and cheese and a ton of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Anything that would go in a sack lunch, prepackaged tuna, apples.”
He added, “People can just show at 550 W. Washington, and we have people here to take donations during regular business hours, and during weekends.”
Given that the weather is still cold and wet, they also need donations of blankets and jackets.
Because of the need to encourage social distancing to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus, Interfaith is creating more space within its existing shelter and housing programs. “Our case management activities are happening virtually, remotely or in large rooms where we can be more than six feet apart,” he said.
Interfaith also provides free tax return service for those who need it. “We help people secure the earned income tax credit, which is a really important part of how they make ends meet.”
Those who need such assistance make an appointment, and when they arrive for the appointment they get on the phone with someone in the office next to them. “We are modifying all of our services to adhere to social distancing,” said Anglea.
Interfaith is also working with the County of San Diego, which has obtained about 1,900 hotel rooms for the homeless, especially for those who have been diagnosed with coronavirus and need to be quarantined for about two weeks.
“We are helping to identify individuals who are older, who have chronic health conditions, to utilize some of those hotel rooms to create social distancing and get people into shelter,” said Anglea.
The recent rains add a wrinkle to the challenges of serving Escondido’s homeless population, especially those coming in for morning services, such as showers. “We created waiting areas for people to do that and that is challenging during inclement weather,” said Anglea. “We are working to get people into shelters and housing, but our staff capacity has been diminished significantly because we have staff who are older and need to stay home. Our volunteers are largely made up of those age groups. We had more than a dozen volunteers each morning and now it’s down to two or three.”
They need able-bodied volunteers to help with the meals and morning shower. “It’s critical to help people stay fed and clean during this pandemic,” he said.
To recap on the urgent needs:
• Volunteer: Volunteers are needed to help with morning meal service, seven days a week, 5 a.m. – 7 a.m. at the 550 W Washington Ave. offices. Interfaith volunteers should contact Volunteer Services Manager Micki Hickox (firstname.lastname@example.org; 760-489-6380 x 204)
• In-Kind Donations: the following can be dropped off at the 550 W Washington Ave. Escondido headquarters during regular business hours: Food: Jelly, Deli Meats, Cheeses, Pre-packaged snacks, and any items for our to-go sack lunches Interfaith provides providing daily.
• Groceries and Household supplies: Non-perishable food, toilet paper, personal hygiene items for homebound seniors and medically vulnerable populations.
• Cleaning Supplies: Hand Sanitizer and Disinfectant Wipes for our service centers and 24/7 residential programs.
• Monetary Donations: funding needed to cover additional expenses to operate our Haven House shelter 24/7, to operate safety-net programs remotely, and to meet increased needs
All gifts up to $50,000 will be matched 100%.