COVID-19 ResponseFeeding the HungryHomeless Prevention ServicesStaff

Part 2: Worlds Collide in the Time of COVID-19                                                                            by Simone Berkowitz, CSA Principal Analyst

As 2020 comes to a much-anticipated end, I have been reflecting back on the year, and in particular, on the months that have passed since I wrote “Worlds Collide in the Time of COVID-19.” One of my most difficult responsibilities these past few months has been reviewing rental cases processed by case managers to check for any paperwork errors before they are submitted to our extremely busy finance department. The task of reviewing a case is simple, but the challenge is not drowning in each tragic story that crosses my desk. Case managers have learned through training and years of experience to keep a professional distance so they do not run through their considerable stores of empathy, and I, lacking in social services expertise, have required a self-taught crash course to do the same.

Since the community appreciated my sharing the stories of some of our clients in the last essay, I wanted to do so again now during this season of gratitude for what we have and giving to those who lack stable shelter, food, and employment.

Here are three client stories:

Imagine giving birth to a child in the middle of a pandemic, a child who was conceived before there was any notion of the health and economic catastrophe to come. CSA was able to help one such couple lacking stable housing who had given birth to a baby girl by providing a hotel stay and then a referral for 90 days of Family Supportive Housing including case management services centered on employment and finding permanent housing. The husband is now in the process of interviewing for jobs.

A story I have heard time and again during this pandemic at the food pantry and among rental case recipients is “I never thought I would have to ask for help.” I’m sure many of us can relate to the shame we would feel if it was our hand reaching out for assistance even though we know logically there is no reason to feel ashamed of asking for help, especially during a global pandemic. One such client was four months behind on rent and worried about being evicted when he did reach out reluctantly and thankfully, with City of Mountain View funds and other assistance, he will be able to keep his housing.

Another story I have seen too frequently among the rental assistance cases is that of someone unable to work because they are quarantining after they or a family member has been exposed to COVID-19 or isolating because they are infected, and thus unable to pay their rent. We are so fortunate as a community to be able to support people in this situation so they do not feel they have to go to work where they might spread the virus to others.

As I reflect on all that CSA has done this year, I feel grateful and proud to work for an organization assisting the members of my community who are most in need right now. In my last essay, I wrote about wanting to build a bridge between the two worlds I inhabit. With each monetary donation, food drop-off, or restaurant voucher purchased, that bridge has grown wider and stronger. Thank you to this community for building the bridge.

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