As the social distancing requirements of the COVID 19 pandemic upended the way we work at Alliance, the public health emergency also created new, pressing needs in our communities. Our Community Health and Well-Being staff sprang into action to help address these new needs and find new ways of leveraging our community partnerships.
One of our biggest areas of focus during this health crisis has been to make sure our members experiencing homelessness are in a safe place. To house these members, we have opened three “healthy hotels,” two in Wake County and one in Cumberland County, which have housed to-date 32 adults and 9 children who had previously been sleeping in campsites and cars.
Alliance staff have been assisted in providing supports for our members by the Wake Med PATH team, the Food Bank of Central and Easter North Carolina, the Interfaith Food Shuttle and SouthLight Peer Support Team.
The goal of this initiative is to have everyone exit into permanent term housing and not back into homelessness. Toward this end and as part of our continued efforts to prevent and end homelessness among the most vulnerable people in our communities, we have received additional permanent Housing Choice vouchers from the Raleigh, Durham and Fayetteville public housing authorities, and we have made a capital investment in the rehabilitation of 8 single room occupancy dwellings to start a bridge housing program in Durham.
We have also approved 91 Independent Living Initiative (ILI) applications to rapidly re-house members or help them avoid eviction. Alliance had expanded ILI at the beginning of the COVID public health emergency so that hospitals and health care providers could apply for assistance to speed up the process of transitioning people from facilities into supported housing.
In addition to our housing efforts, our Community Health and Well-being staff have been busy supporting our communities through the difficult times caused by school and business closures and the need for isolation.
- We hosted virtual resource fairs featuring information about Durham and Wake Networks of Care, our Independent Living Initiative, and resources and services available through county agencies. These fairs are archived for viewing here:
- We partnered with local food insecurity and homeless service organization to help ensure people in need in our communities could access food and critical supplies. This included using funds that had been planned for now canceled programs and events to contribute food, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, healthy snacks, books, diapers and formula, and art supplies and games to community partners who distribute them to those who need them.
- Alliance staff also distributed and shared with community partners educational flyers related to COVID19 and stress/anxiety.
- We printed 15,000 copies of the coloring book “Joey the Kangaroo and Her Coping with Covid Plan” for distribution by community partners to help kids understand COVID-19.
- We implemented a FEMA Crisis Counseling Program grant, which has allowed the state to extend the Hope4NC program to provide COVID-related emotional support and service connections to people who need them. Our participation includes helping to staff the Hope4NC helpline (1-855-587-3463) with four Alliance System of Care (SOC) coordinators.
- We are using funds that were meant for sponsorships at events to purchase cloth masks for children and distributing them to a variety of organizations in each county.