COVID-19 RESPONSE & UPDATES
What happened at VSS since COVID-19?
With COVID 19, VSS is experiencing an unprecedented surge of requests for assistance from old and new clients. They include those who have lost jobs or other wage earning activities in manufacturing, retail, hospitality, and self-employment. They are also nail salon business owners and worker of which more than 90% are Vietnamese, including undocumented immigrants. They come to VSS because of our cultural competence, respect, and connectedness. They trust us because our staff, volunteer, board of directors, and advisory boards are from the communities. Most of all, they have come to know VSS as where they are assured a response to their needs.
- Each day, we get between 70-100 calls a day. This is 3-5 times more than usual. The calls come from current, old, and new clients on everything, including new clients from the Somali community. They call us on things that we can expect in time of crisis, such as dealing with hunger, depression, or domestic violence. But they also call us on things that we are unprepared for such as how to respond to the refusal of the ER room to treat or test for COVID, or how to handle the traditional funeral rituals for the deceased loved family members. We also get calls for help from small businesses, including owners of nail salons of which 95% owner are Vietnamese Americans. The highest number of requests for help is for emergency support, including food, counseling, transportation, hospitalization, and housing.
- In response, VSS staff, volunteer, and even board members are working night and day. Our staff have always worn multiple hats. But now they have all become case workers and translators, not only in languages but also in technology. They are helping close to 100 individuals and families per day with unemployment challenges, food access, distance learning for youth/kids, and the health needs of their multi-generation and extended family, from great grandma to nieces and cousins – all of whom speak little to no English as new Americans. Since beginning of March, VSS has distributed food box for 300 clients per month. Also, we are preparing and protecting Vietnamese, Karen, Somali communities beyond services by serving as a consulting resources for the Minnesota Department of Health, City of Minneapolis, and the Governor office as they create COVID action plan.
What do we expect over the next 12 months?
Over the next 12 months, we anticipate that needs will continue to increase. It is unlikely that the health and economic threats to our communities will go away. Job losses will not come back over the next six months, at the earlies. COVID 19 will hit with a second wave in the fall. The inequities in wealth access, education, health care, and race will worsen.
- Increase of at least 50% of clients needing services in emergency assistance, COVID-19 information on prevention, testing, and treatment, job placements, mental health services, domestic abuse, family issues, elderly services, and all current programs.
- Increase of the number of clients in current programs: Celebrating Families program, Elders Circles, ABE program due to increased enrollment in MFIP
- Increase need of clients for job training programs Increased need for services for children and youth
- Increased calls from clients wanting info on COVID-19 and asking for VSS to be a testing site as well as hub for COVID-19 health services
- 100% increase in home visits
What are our top priorities over the next 12 months?
Our overarching goal is to have enough resources and capacity to respond to needs from our community in this most uncertain and worrying times. Given the vulnerabilities of our populations, we have to focus on coming out of the crisis in a decent place. This means that basic needs are met without long-term damages to the health and economic safety of our community.
- Our top priority is to help as many people as possible in our community be prepared and have the responses to deal with the health needs because of COVID 19 . The most vulnerable are the Elders, Women heads of households, and newly arrived Minnesotans who have little to no English. We will provide:
- Bilingual information on prevention, testing, treatments
- Referrals for health services and access
- Serve as a hub for COVID-19 info, including testing for community members and other roles to prepare for the resurgence of the virus in the fall 2020
- Our second priority is to respond to the job insecurity of current and new clients who work mainly in low-paying jobs in the hospitality, retail, and service sector. The most vulnerable in this group are those who work in meat packing industries, manufacturing, and nail salons. We will provide:
- Distance Learning
- Referrals to resources depending on each case, including legal services
- Our third priority is more internal: We will need to maintain current services, including those not grant funded and to increase staff capacity. The greatest risk to our agency is the burn out of our staff because of the high intensity of their engagement in various situations, such as domestic violence, suicide prevention, alcoholism, depression, and desperation as well as frustration from clients whose hope for a better future has disappeared.
- Strengthen collaboration with the VISTA program to bring in VISTA volunteers to provide real time community development experiences for the benefits of both the volunteers and the communities
- Hire at least 2 more fulltime staff members
- Provide technology support for working from home as well as work safety when we do return to the office, including new laptops and phone service subscription for distance working and hygiene and PPE supplies as they return to work or/and conduct home visits.