SNAP collaborates to address food, shelter, medical and financial needs
During the coronavirus outbreak, SNAP has coordinated efforts to provide food, shelter, medical and financial services.
On April 3, its homeless services coordinator, Arielle Anderson, called for assistance in feeding homeless neighbors. By April 4, she had many food sources.
"We have been doing homeless outreach," she said, "but these folks are hungry. It's hard to assess what services they qualify for if they are hungry."
Arielle sees an increase in food need among homeless people. Traditional food sources are less available, and many who have no house—cautious about catching COVID-19—avoid places handing out food, she said.
SNAP's team called local grocery stores, vendors and common sources that deal with food insecurity. Most were tapped out.
So SNAP forged partnerships with area nonprofits. Blessings Under the Bridge founder Jessica Kovac accepted non-perishable food items that Arielle collected and immediately gave to clients on the streets.
SNAP partnered with Transitions' New Leaf Bakery to provide food to distribute.
"This was a double win, as New Leaf Bakery, a small business, has felt the financial crunch of the shelter-in-place order," she said.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, SNAP has been assessing needs, while assisting the one in 10 Spokane County neighbors they serve annually.
In March, SNAP's homeless services team housed 17 clients, while working remotely, social distancing and dealing with increased fear among those served.
Through three nonprofits, Arielle's team supplied foods like fruit, granola, pretzels, trail mix and non-perishable sack lunches for homeless people.
"Spokane embodies a collaborative spirit," she said.
"As many homeless neighbors shelter in place under freeway overpasses, in vehicles, under tents or plastic tarps during this time without a reliable source of nutrition, this food provides not only vital calories, but also knowledge that the community has not forgotten them," she said.
Arielle is also working with homeless services providers, medical staff and organizers to implement street medicine.
Inadequate shelter combined with poor access to hygiene, medical treatment and information means the homeless community have the potential for spreading COVID-19, she said.
Physician assistant TJ Byrne Pa-C, who previously did street medicine for homeless in Northern Idaho, volunteered on four outings since street medicine with homeless outreach teams began in April. He joined Bob Peeler of SNAP on his normal street rounds and saw 17 people, offering help from providing socks or a bandaid to screening vital signs and blood pressure, and testing for COVID-19.
Street medicine efforts underscore barriers homeless individuals face in finding medical attention, and the importance of offering medical services where they are. TJ has shared information with them on social distancing, symptoms and the quarantine.
The need for street medicine predates COVID-19, but the outbreak provided an opportunity to expedite efforts begun in conversations with Washington State University's Elson Floyd College of Medicine, the Spokane Regional Health District, CHAS, Jewels Helping Hands and the Spokane Alliance.
Street medicine helps with minor issues—blisters and calluses that often go untreated—and builds trust and relationships.
Now that the street medicine program is going, volunteers like TJ and other service providers will continue it past COVID-19.
SNAP's new director of financial stability, Renee LaRocca, learned that things move quickly at SNAP and "being resourceful is a premium" as SNAP seeks to provide pathways for more than 40,000 neighbors to move out of poverty through its subsidiary, SNAP Financial Access.
In response to a need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), SNAP partnered with World Relief to provide masks made by graduates of its WEAVE sewing class, many of whom have been laid off during COVID-19.
SNAP covered material costs to produce masks and relied on donations to provide wages for World Relief's sewing artisans.
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, May, 2020