While these are incredibly trying times for all of us, I am blown away by the generosity and spirit of our community, the heroics of our staff and volunteers, and the breathtaking intensity of sudden need among the most vulnerable residents of our community. I want to update you on how this ever-evolving situation has affected Community Services Agency (CSA), as well as critical client needs.
Completely unprecedented need
It is not an overstatement to say that we have seen the collapse of the service sector and gig economy with this crisis. And CSA, along with many friends and partners, is picking up the pieces in the aftermath. With the shelter-in-place orders extended until May 3, there will be even more need in the coming weeks and, quite possibly, months.
Maintaining client access to services is more critical during these difficult times. In a typical month, CSA will process about 20 rental assistance cases. As of April 2, we had over 1,100 applicants for emergency financial support to pay for April rent and/or utilities. Our rental assistance case management capacity has been quadrupled through staff cross-training and setting up a triage system for incoming clients. We are also seeing an increasing number of people coming to us for food each day, and we do not turn anyone away. So, we set up our pantry distribution in the parking lot to create social distancing and pre-bagged the groceries for easy takeaway.
Even when there are setbacks, we have tried to overcome them. When the Mountain View Senior Center had to cease operations a few weeks ago, we had to follow suit with our Senior Lunch Program, which serves 150 to 200 seniors every day. I am pleased to report that the city of Mountain View has graciously allowed our culinary team to work in the kitchen even though the Senior Center remains closed. As of this past Monday, we are up and running, preparing meals for seniors to pick up curbside. For many of our seniors, this may be their only hot meal of the day.
Taking care of hidden pockets of vulnerability
This brings up an important point. There are many groups affected by this crisis. And many of those groups have amazing advocates who bring out food and other resources for them. I have to give a big shoutout to the faith communities who have really stepped up in this situation to provide food on Saturday (Hope’s Corner/Los Altos United Methodist Church) and Sunday (Breakfast with Friends/Central Seventh-day Adventist) mornings. Lord’s Grace Christian Church has teamed with the Mountain View Police Department to deliver dozens of hygiene kits to our homeless population. And community advocates have made sure to let CSA know of the needs they see among their constituents.
But it is important to look for areas of need that have no advocates, or those who can go unnoticed. And if we have a blind spot right now, it is with our seniors and those who are disabled or have special needs. Our community’s older adult population is especially vulnerable at this time, with many experiencing social isolation. Please look out for those belonging to high-risk groups by checking in with them on a regular basis. Your telephone call or note will go a long way in lifting their spirits. And make sure they know about CSA and our food programs.
We live in an amazingly generous community
CSA has received an outpouring of support from community members who wish to contribute in some way. If you are able to volunteer, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator LaDrea Clark at [email protected] or 650-964-4630. We are also accepting donations of food to meet increased demand. While CSA normally emphasizes access to fresh fruits and vegetables for clients, in this unique situation, packaged items only are requested; i.e., boxed or canned food.
Monetary contributions are especially important right now as community needs have increased exponentially. To help our neighbors, CSA has created a special fund to help with rent, utilities, food and other emergency requests, with 100% going directly to these urgent client needs. We will be sending out more information about this fund in the near future, but you can go ahead to make a much-needed gift at csacares.org.
And the city of Mountain View and the Los Altos Community Foundation have created the #TogetherMV fund to assist with the economic impact on residents and small businesses in our community. CSA is grateful for the funds this innovative collaboration will generate.
Stay healthy! Stay optimistic!
This virus will be gone at some point, and we will mop up the mess to our economy, ourselves and our lives. But in the meantime, it will take a heavy lift from all of us to get through this. Please stay safe and healthy!
Tom Myers is executive director of Community Services Agency in Mountain View.