No one would wish for a pandemic, but even the worst health crisis in more than a century can be a call to service. Many who have houses in which to quarantine have made thousands of fabric masks for homeless neighbors. One woman alone crafted 600 masks for distribution by Be Bold Street Ministries. A handful of health care providers started a mobile medical team and have voluntarily extended care, including testing for COVID-19 amongst vulnerable and high-risk populations. Restaurants have delivered free meals to emergency responders and provided at-cost food for non-profit distribution. Governments, faith-based groups, and other non-profit organizations that work day-in and day-out to address food, health, and housing insecurities have formed new partnerships.
For example, on Friday, June 12 the third Health Connect – in what has become an ongoing series of events to serve people experiencing homelessness – will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Church@thePark, 2410 Turner Rd. SE in Salem. Be Bold Street Ministries will provide food from Cindy Lou’s BBQ, and, even in a world that requires physical distancing and personal protective equipment, people can access health services from Northwest Human Services’ West Salem Clinic, have housing interviews with Community Action: ARCHES Project, participate in the City of Salem’s Cash for Trash project, and pick up pantry boxes from Marion Polk Food Share.
Over the past three months, outreach workers from Northwest Human Services, Salem Housing Authority, Be Bold Street Ministries, HOME Youth Services, and ARCHES have synchronized services to more effectively support homeless youth, adults, and families, particularly those able to shelter in tents in the undeveloped portions of Wallace Marine and Cascades Gateway parks. Coordinating outreach staff schedules and using real-time communication tools have increased the opportunity to connect vulnerable individuals to medical care and other social services.
All sectors of the community have the opportunity to shine, even during a crisis.