Dear Friends and Supporters,
Last weekend, I made calls to each of the families residing in our emergency family shelter. We have six families: single moms, a single dad, two grandmothers and a nuclear family-14 kids in total ranging from 6-months to 15 years of age. As I checked in, I asked one of the elders if she needed anything, she replied, “Honey, I am a survivor and we will survive this too.”
I was reminded of the amazing resiliency we see in the families we serve every single day. And, it also broke my heart. Every family in our community deserves to thrive, not just survive. We face many challenges ahead. The heartbreaking truth is that COVID-19 threatens to disrupt our hard-won progress for so many families facing housing instability. Beyond the near-term effects, this outbreak will undoubtedly destabilize the housing situation for so many. We serve families who are paying more than 50% of their incomes toward rent and, like the 40% of households across the U.S., many are unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense. Those who already live in, or on the edge of, poverty will be the hardest hit.
In this uncertain time, I want to assure you that Friends Association is committed to serving the most vulnerable families in our community, just as we have for the past 198 years. We care deeply about the parents, grandparents, caregivers, and children who come to Friends for shelter and support. To date, no known cases of the coronavirus have been identified at our shelter or among the 45 families we are serving throughout our community.
Our staff is going above and beyond to provide support to the families we serve. They are speaking with families daily and assessing their health, basic needs, and the educational needs for their children who are now out of school. We are their safety- net now more than ever.
- We have had several cooked meal donations delivered safely to the shelter and we are using all of our community partners to meet the food insecurity needs of families in their own housing.
- Our partners at the Chester County Intermediate Unit have provided iPads for a few of our older kids so they can keep up with their schoolwork.
- Our partners at the Home Visiting Nurse program are doing phone and virtual check-ins with our families with infants and;
- Our Licensed Clinical Social Worker is providing mental health support to individuals through Zoom video conferencing.
While we are not physically able to come together or set up to take material donations, we look to you now to be with us in solidarity as we support and protect the most vulnerable among us. In the weeks to come we will be reaching out for help with opportunities for virtual tutoring and homeschooling support, and as soon as we can safely accept donations ,we will be asking for specific items (educational support materials, food boxes, housing supplies).
Now more than ever flexible financial operating support is critical to find housing for families and help families whose jobs are affected by this virus stay in their homes. Financial operating support allows us to be responsive to our supply and direct service needs, including the increased utility bills we expect for the shelter now that everyone is home.
There are brief moments where, I will admit, I feel overwhelmed. And then I take a deep breath. And I remember the thousands of supporters who have kept our mission alive for nearly 200 years. Friends exists because thousands of quiet heroes with families, and bills of their own, with busy lives, and joys and sorrows, decide that families should not be homeless. That children should not suffer, but instead should be cherished and celebrated and that kids need family in good times and in bad and that all families deserve to thrive.
With deep gratitude,
It Starts With A Home
Friends Association provides emergency shelter and prevention services using a two-generation approach for families facing homelessness or housing instability in Chester County. Friend’s unique programming, with a trauma-informed and resiliency focused approach, includes all family compositions, allowing us to keep families together through housing, services, and support.
“At Friends we are committed to exercising social responsibility while understanding that we are the safety-net for so many families. Your donations and words of support over the past few days have energized us as we continue to provide critical services for families facing homelessness. Beginning March 16, we will be partially closed as we strive to keep employees and families safe and healthy.”