Supporting the homeless population during COVID-19
Wells Fargo’s quick and flexible funding for nonprofits like N Street Village and Bethesda Cares helps support the homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Jewel McNeill and the other women N Street Village serves, it’s important to feel safe.
“I didn’t feel safe for a very long time. I’m safe now,” said McNeill, who has an apartment with N Street Village’s permanent supportive housing program. “Even with COVID-19, I know that I am safe. And that’s important. When you’ve been an addict and in abusive relationships, you don’t feel safe. I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
N Street Village helps nearly 2,000 homeless and low-income women in Washington, D.C., each year with housing, income, employment, mental health, physical health, and addiction recovery. Like many groups who work with the homeless population, N Street Village has had to alter its programming to keep clients and front-line staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This may be the greatest crisis for the people we serve since our founding almost 50 years ago,” said Schroeder Stribling, CEO of N Street Village. “The health disparities are well known to us; diabetes and asthma are things we are concerned about. The women of N Street Village are medically fragile. They’re going to be more vulnerable to the virus and its effects.”
In mid-March, like other areas around the country, schools and many businesses in the D.C. region closed, and residents were under a stay-at-home order. “This region particularly is high in hospitality,” said Anna Bard, Community Relations manager for Wells Fargo. “So with our hotels and our restaurants all closed, that’s creating really difficult hardship on many in our area, and they’re turning to the nonprofit sector to be able to help them pay their rent or feed their children who would typically be getting breakfast and lunch at school. Wells Fargo is working with nonprofits to help with those needs.”
“This may be the greatest crisis for the people we serve since our founding almost 50 years ago.” — Schroeder Stribling, CEO of N Street Village
To help N Street Village and nonprofits around the world respond to these and other needs, Wells Fargo announced in March that it is redirecting $175 million to help address food, financial security, small business, and housing stability issues, and to help public health organizations fighting to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“These organizations are doing really heroic work, and they need our help right now,” Bard said.
‘We’re in a very specific crisis’
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the homeless population is more at risk because services are often provided in close settings, which could lead to the spread of infection. Many are older or have underlying medical conditions, putting them at an even higher risk. To help N Street Village and the women it serves, Wells Fargo donated a $30,000 grant in general operating support.
When the pandemic first hit, N Street Village began only providing essential services along with bagged breakfasts and lunches. The staff also moved the most vulnerable women it serves off-site in an effort to lessen their potential exposure to the coronavirus. Wells Fargo quickly provided the $30,000 grant, giving N Street Village the flexibility to use the funds as their needs unfolded, Stribling said. N Street Village has been using the funding to provide personal protective equipment and support for its front-line workers, as well as access to food for the nearly 400 women and 51 families it serves.
“We have a long-standing relationship with Wells Fargo, going back to 2007, and we’re very grateful for it,” Stribling said. “Right now, of course, we’re in a very specific crisis, and Wells Fargo was one of the first supporters to reach out to us and ask what we need and to figure out a way to get us help quickly. They were like a front-line responder for the front-line responder.”
“The state of Maryland has been under stay-at-home orders, and some people don’t have homes. Bethesda Cares is being creative in how they reach and uphold the dignity of those individuals.” — Anna Bard, Community Relations manager for Wells Fargo
That’s important to people like McNeill, who said she has been missing her biological family and the family she has found through N Street Village. Recently, she has been able to see the nonprofit’s staff at a distance with their face masks on. “I was able to lay eyes on them, and they were able to lay eyes on me, and we were able to talk about things,” McNeill said. “That gave me a second boost.”
‘We are able to raise the level of care’
Bethesda Cares, located in Bethesda, Maryland, is another nonprofit that helps to prevent homelessness by providing a one-time grant for those facing eviction to pay rent, and works to end and ease homelessness by bringing people supplies and developing relationships through their direct street outreach program.
“The state of Maryland has been under stay-at-home orders, and some people don’t have homes,” Bard said. “Bethesda Cares is being creative in how they reach and uphold the dignity of those individuals. Some people don’t want to go into shelters, so Bethesda Cares is seeing how else they can help.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions have made it harder for Bethesda Cares to do its work. “People don’t want to shout their problems across a six-foot expanse,” said Deborah Taylor, programs director for the nonprofit. “We’re always well aware of the safety concerns when we’re engaging with clients, so the lack of physical proximity has been difficult.”
Wells Fargo has supported Bethesda Cares since 2009 and recently provided a $10,000 grant for COVID-19 relief, which has allowed the nonprofit’s staff to continue to work with its clients safely. Bethesda Cares used the funding to provide personal protective equipment for its staff, as well as disposable, no-contract phones for its clients to have telehealth visits with the staff. Taylor added that the speed and flexibility of the grant allowed the nonprofit to respond quickly to the pandemic and get ahead of the curve.
“Nonprofits run on a shoestring budget,” Taylor said. “It's very difficult to provide the quality and level of care we do without some extra funding. With donations from Wells Fargo and other organizations, we are able to raise the level of care of people who experience homelessness. We’re very grateful for the support Wells Fargo and other donors have provided us, because it keeps our staff and clients safe.”
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