Uplift: Community Social Response

By Gelena Blishteyn
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Prior to COVID-19 many of our clients lived one crisis away from complete financial collapse; that crisis has arrived. With the onset of the pandemic in NYC, the Marks JCH team led a community-wide assessment through phone calls and online surveys of nearly 7,000 current clients While those initial data points were staggering, over three months later they are even grimmer:

  • 65% of our families have lost one or all streams of income coming into the household. 25% of families have lost ALL household income.
  • Nearly 40% of households have concerns about their ability to pay their rent or mortgage.
  • 28% of households have adults who are working outside of their homes during the crisis (e.g. essential workers, health aides, etc.), including single-parent households, and they are constantly searching for childcare.
  • 46% of clients have concerns about social isolation, and 34% are concerned about a family member’s anxiety or depression.

In addition, we remain deeply concerned about our seniors, including more than 700 Holocaust survivors who depend on the Marks JCH for hot meals, home visits and safety checks, counseling, and more. Many of these homebound seniors now are virtually cut off from the outside world. Marks JCH social workers have been trained in remote access and are conducting phone and Zoom check-ins (depending seniors’ technical capacities), making sure that our seniors have food, medications, and other necessities while helping them deal with the extreme social isolation that can lead to depression and anxiety.

An outpouring of clients is reaching out with requests for help with utilities, rent, food, and medicine, while desperately searching for childcare so they can continue working. Our social workers and case managers are helping clients’ access entitlements and benefits (e.g. SNAP/food stamps, unemployment insurance). We have pivoted our workforce training programs online, so that as New York gets back to work, our clients continue to train and get placed into jobs that will support and stabilize their families.

The Marks JCH Uplift: Community Social Response initiative, generously supported by the UJA Federation of NY, has already coordinated, expanded and amplified these critical social services And removed barriers for our main constituencies: single parent households, unemployed/underemployed adults, and vulnerable seniors in need. Uplift provides a comprehensive model of integrated services – assessment, benefits education and planning, crisis case management, referrals to housing assistance, and mental health screenings. The COVID-19 crisis has sped up our planned use of technology and other innovations, such as: a childcare time bank for single parents; virtual socialization groups for seniors unable to leave home; remote case management and educational workshops; and, a volunteer unit delivering critical supplies and daily support for new mothers/families and homebound and anxious seniors. We at the Marks JCH are incredibly proud and committed to the work of uplifting the neediest in our community during the worst public health crisis in a century. At the same time, we know that our work will not end any time in the near future – we are at the very start of an incredibly long road to recovery for our community.


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