9,000 people receive food, thousands more helped over the phone during first two weeks of the pandemic
HOUSTON – The hallways at Catholic Charities facilities may be quiet, but the agency is “virtually” bustling with activity. In compliance with local shelter-in-place orders stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, agency staff are using technology and modified strategies to continue serving hundreds of families in need each day.
“All of our programs have been up and running without interruption since the Coronavirus was first identified as a threat to our community,” said Catholic Charities President Cynthia N. Colbert, MSW. “What has changed is how we’re providing help. Our primary concern is protecting the safety of our clients, volunteers and staff while we serve.”
During the last two weeks in March, Catholic Charities took more than 2,400 COVID-related calls and provided 79,000 pounds of food to nearly 9,000 individuals using drive-through distribution. That’s in addition to continuing service to thousands of clients already enrolled in the agency’s network of life-changing programs.
“We expect to see the need increase very quickly due to lost wages from jobs that disappeared as businesses closed,” said Colbert. “Catholic Charities adapted what we are doing to ensure we can do more to help the people who need it most.”
The agency set up a special hotline to take calls related to need brought on by the pandemic: the COVID assistance line, 713-874-6521, or by email: covidassistance@CatholicCharities.org.
Calls, texts, video meetings and email have temporarily replaced in-person appointments to connect clients with services. At Catholic Charities’ three largest food pantries in Houston, Galveston and Richmond, food is distributed throughout the week by loading bags of groceries into vehicles with families safely riding inside.
Catholic Charities programs continue to provide community outreach and education through web-based video platforms. Using websites like Zoom, the St. Frances Cabrini Center for Immigration Legal Assistance instructs immigrants on their legal rights, while Blessed Beginnings Life Center holds virtual parenting education classes.
Programs are providing material assistance while keeping a safe distance: meals and groceries are dropped at home entryways for seniors, women veterans and refugees, baby supplies left on doorsteps for young parents.
“Through the grace of God, not even a pandemic can keep Catholic Charities from providing our life-changing services,” said Colbert. “We are people of faith relying on God’s protection as we help people during this time of great need.”