As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make its mark, families in Chatham County are suffering. The “Neighbor2Neighbor” program created in Chatham last spring — a joint effort by the News + …
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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make its mark, families in Chatham County are suffering. The “Neighbor2Neighbor” program created in Chatham last spring — a joint effort by the News + Record, Abundance NC and the Caremongering Pittsboro Facebook page — has helped many families. But during this holiday season, many unmet needs exist.
This week, we speak with Abundance NC’s Marcela Slade, the program director for Neighbor 2Neighbor / VecinoAVecino and the soon-to-be executive director of Abundance NC, about meeting those needs.
Since March, Slade has been coordinating the Neighbor2Neighbor program by connecting people with time and resources with those in need of groceries, food, utility, rent payments and directing them to other community resources when needed.
“At first it was the Latinx community we tapped into because of the promotional support of our program by El Vínculo Hispano in Siler City,” Slade said. “Our own email blasts, newsletters and website as well as the Chatham News + Record have helped us connect with the people willing to help.”
Recently, most of the calls received through the program are from people in need who don’t qualify for DSS help — but need immediate help.
“Most of the people who apply to the Neighbor2Neighbor / VecinoAVecino get the help within a day or a few days,” Slade says. “The process is easy and anyone no matter their status can apply.”
Slade first came to Abundance NC as Event Coordinator for Death Faire 2018. Aside from that work, she serves on the Orange County Arts Commission board, is a curator for Smelt Art Gallery and the Town of Carrboro, teaches spring semester Fashion Illustration at N.C. State’s Wilson College of Textiles and is an active multidisciplinary artist-designer. She currently lives with her husband and two boys in Carrboro.
Since Neighbor2Neighbor’s launch, more than 100 community members have helped about 100 families in Chatham County to the tune of more than $20,000 worth of groceries, utility bills and more. What’s the overarching lesson or theme you’ve gleaned from this effort, both about the need and the willingness of donors and helpers to step forward?
People are extremely generous and understand abundance and are empathetic to those who have less and are in need. There is definitely enough to share in order to keep up this resilient community of the N.C. Piedmont.
COVID-19 has made life difficult for many, but many people were already suffering and COVID-19 has made it more apparent, visible and it has risen to the surface.
There is not enough help out there for people in poverty, let alone people who are undocumented. We need more affordable housing, affordable or free medical assistance and jobs that don’t judge you by your past mistakes or situation you were born into. The system seems to adjust just enough to use people who are in poverty in order to profit from them but keeps them in poverty rather than helping them spring into a better place.
Unfortunately, our system makes it difficult to get some of the help. There are many organizations who have CARES money that they need to spend before Dec. 30 or they will have to return. Some of the prerequisites to receive the funds are ridiculous, to name a few: You have to be able to prove you are “chronically” homeless, not just homeless. You have to have loss of work, not just unemployment, otherwise it’s not COVID-19 related. You have to pass a background check.
On top of that the assistance is not immediate; people are in need today, not two weeks plus from now.
Our Neighbor2Neighbor program at Abundance NC helps people in need between one to five days. To us, COVID-19 is a world-wide pandemic; we understand it is a part of everyone’s life right now, no matter how good you have it.
Who knew last Christmas where we’d be in the spring, and who knew in the spring where we’d be this Christmas. Throughout this time frame, what’s changed about the needs you’re seeing within the community — particularly as it relates to the “unknowns” about the pandemic?
People are getting eviction notices, their basic needs to survive are being taken from them, utilities being shut off ... electricity, water, gas. It’s getting worse as time passes. Having bills accumulate (payment plans) does not relieve the stress. It creates chaos in households and uncertainty for the future. Politicians are not taking immediate action to protect the most vulnerable; they should be passing bills to cover the basic needs of people in poverty during this world wide pandemic … so that when we come out of this, if we do, they have strength to continue.
What are the “now” needs as we approach Christmas and a new year? What’s most pressing? And what’s the capacity and capability within Chatham of those needs being met?
We need more funds to help people TODAY! Every cent counts! Please donate now if you can, you will help someone stay out of the cold, or keep someone with heat and water in their house!
No matter how much we can get our community members with resources and time to help, we need affordable housing that includes basic utilities now! People who are homeless are spending more money than they should on rent. I have received more than 15 calls in the past week from people who need $60 to pay a one-night stay at a “hotel.” If they were to stay a whole month that is $1,800 for a room a month. That’s expensive. The system needs to change, the government, our state and county officials need to work at helping the people who need it most and come up with a way to create affordable, sustainable housing immediately!
Can we talk about connectivity? Abundance NC works in this field, and through N2N you’ve helped connect 50 families in need with other resources in the community to fix a problem. We’re more isolated than we’ve ever been, yet there’s this great need for connectedness. What do we do?
We have some amazing community leaders and organizers like Hilary Pollan, Community Partners Analyst at the Chatham County’s Manager’s Office, who has included Abundance NC on the Chatham Community Partners calls and with her help and that of the other organizations involved we have been interconnected and sending people to where they can get the best help.
Our community needs to stick together until we can fix the overall system. Basic necessities such as housing, food and health should be a right no matter your status ... there is abundance everywhere and if we can spread the word on how to help others, through this program or others like it, we can keep helping people in need right now.
What can you tell us about the Holiday Campaign?
Since the beginning of November we have received approximately $3,700 from our generous donors and have been busy paying utility bills to avoid disconnection and in some cases rent to avoid eviction.
If everyone can continue to share and push the need out there ... we can help more people in need NOW!
Where can donations be made?
Just go here: https://bit.ly/2VTy6Je
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