Working Poor & COVID-19

SVDP is receiving more calls from families who have never applied for assistance before. BR is a single mom in her 50’s who moved to Columbia in 2019 from another state to assist her adult son and his 2-year-old son. BR got sick in March with the flu and lost 2 weeks of work. She resorted to getting a title loan to pay the bills. When COVID-19 hit, both mother and son’s work hours were reduced, and they were unfamiliar with available resources in Columbia. In October, the title company took BR’s entire check from her bank account and there was no way to pay bills. SVDP recommended the adult son apply for Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), Childcare Subsidy and Food Stamps online with the MO Department of Social Services ( Voluntary Action Center (VAC) 573-874-2273 might cover past-due rent if COVID-related and Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) 573-443-1100 has funds for all utilities and Internet. SVDP assisted with food cards and kept utilities on.

More Calls From Families

From January thru May of 2020, SVDP’s helpline received the usual number of calls. We assisted 191 families in the first 5 months of 2020. When government assistance began to run out there was a sharp increase in requests during the summer. SVDP set records for assistance from June through September assisting 272 households, which included 474 children.

Heater & Air Purifier

3/25/20 FM (age 71) called the SVDP helpline and asked for a space heater. Since all utility companies in MO had agreed not to disconnect clients during the pandemic, our phone volunteer was at first confused by the request and told FM she could turn up her thermostat. Due to the stay-at-home order, SVDP was doing “virtual home visits” with in-depth phone calls so a home visit volunteer left several messages with FM before she finally responded 10 days later. Turns out FM was very susceptible to pneumonia, and needed to be in a warmer environment than most people, so much so that her doctor wrote a letter to her previous employer explaining why she be allowed to wear a coat and scarf at work. FM already had a heater/air purifier on hold at a local hardware store. FM had also contacted a local agency that helps seniors, Aging Best, and had secured $100 of the cost thru a grant especially for elderly women. SVDP covered the rest of the cost ($150) of the heater/purifier and delivered the unit to FM’s garage. FM was very grateful but she also wondered if SVDP could find her a piano so she could play hymns while at home under pandemic lockdown. With the Holy Spirit’s help, maybe so!

From Homeless to Married

3/12/20 This was our last actual home visit before the Coronavirus struck Boone County and the mayor enacted a stay-at-home order. The home visit team met J(age 50) and her friend R(age 52) at a local homeless shelter. They talked a little about how they ended up there – R went downhill emotionally after caring for his ailing mother and she passed away. J had a college degree and had once held various middle-class jobs before illness and other challenges sent her life sliding downhill. The pair had a strong belief in God and attended the local Catholic Church when they could. R was employed at a factory, J was recuperating from hand surgery and in training for a support job in the mental health field. Unfortunately their poor financial histories made landlords wary of taking a chance on them. After several apartments fell thru they finally got an OK and SVDP helped them with part of the first month’s rent. They were thrilled to finally get their own place! Two weeks later the volunteer got a text from the couple that they had gotten married!

Cancer Survivor

3/1/2020 Mr. J (age 64) had gastrointestinal surgery last fall due to cancer. When he came home from the hospital he received eviction notice from his landlord with 2 weeks notice to leave. His SSI income was very meager, but a kind landlord (whom SVDP had helped years ago!) allowed Mr. J to rent a unit with the hope that Mr. J’s caseworker could secure rent funds. The funds for that grant ran out but SVDP volunteers came to the rescue! Two SVDP home visit volunteers met Mr. J at his new apartment, listened to his story and prayed with him. The next day a volunteer drove Mr. J to the water district office and paid to get his water turned on (he had been living with no running water for over a month) and then paid his first month’s rent. Mr. J’s doctor was concerned because he had started to lose weight post-surgery, so the volunteer also took him to get groceries, as his food stamp allotment was only $50 per month.