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Monsters and Physicians Ambulance join together for Season of Giving

Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

How has COVID impacted the amount of people that need help in Northeast Ohio? How did the organization adapt normal resources as the pandemic unfolded?

COVID has changed all of our lives, but people living on the streets of Cleveland, people living in poverty, and our neighbors working low wage jobs are so uniquely impacted by this pandemic. In a world where so many people before covid were just one paycheck away from being homeless, so many people who have lost their jobs or closed their small businesses are feeling the strain, too. At NEOCH, we responded to the pandemic by placing the most vulnerable people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Cleveland into hotel rooms back in March so they could self-isolate when the shelter-in-place order first went into effect. We increased our street outreach presence in the community since so many of the public daytime places that people on the streets relied on are now closed to the public. We used our membership of homeless advocates and people with lived experience to advocate for emergency rental assistance, an eviction moratorium in our municipal court, and more portable toilets so people outside had somewhere to use the bathroom and wash their hands.

How have you had to change accepting help with volunteer work and fundraising efforts as restrictions due to COVID continue to evolve?

Unfortunately, NEOCH had to suspend our in-person volunteer efforts to reduce the risk of spread during the pandemic. Music groups and church groups who previously held in person benefits for us could no longer support our work in that way, but that didn't stop people in our community from finding ways to give back to NEOCH. Middle school students collected new socks that they collected from the doorsteps of their friends and they dropped it off at NEOCH. A local band streamed a live concert on Zoom to contribute to a virtual fundraiser we held back in October, while some of our Street Voices speakers with lived experience of homelessness talked to groups of students over Zoom about the work of NEOCH and about their own personal story being homeless.

With the weather getting colder and a second wave of COVID on the rise, what is the best way for the local community to provide help to the organization?

The best way for the local community to support NEOCH is to subscribe to our newsletter at www.neoch.org and follow us on social media to learn about upcoming virtual educational workshops at NEOCH to understand the root causes of homelessness, like structural racism and a lack of affordable housing. People can also stay update through our website and social media on different advocacy and organizing projects that can help them get involved in the work to end homelessness in their own neighborhoods. Lastly, people can support a Street Chronicle vendor by buying the special wrapping paper issue at the West Side Market, or online at www.neoch.org/wrapuphomelessness