The coronavirus pandemic continues to create new challenges and disruptions to those working on the front lines in the fight against hunger. Our friends atNew York City Relief were among those forced to adapt on the fly in order to continue serving those struggling with homelessness and hunger.
As part of our effort to shine a light on the inspiring work our impact partners are doing, Nunbelievable co-founder and CMO Kuda Biza recently hosteda conversation on Facebook Live with NYC Relief's vice president of outreach, Josiah Haken, to talk about the work they are doing and how our community can get involved.
You can watch the full conversation here:
When the country shut down in mid-March, the effects on the less fortunate members of society was devastating. Soup kitchens were forced to shut down, crowded homeless shelters became COVID-19 hotspots, and essential resources and services became scarce. “I’ve been doing this work at NYC Relief, serving our brothers and sisters who are experiencing homelessness, for over 10 years now and I can tell you that March was one of the most challenging things that I’ve ever dealt with,” Haken said during the chat. “And that’s just from the side of the person serving. I can’t imagine what the people being served went through.”
NYC Relief hosts mobile outreach events each week ateight locations in New York and New Jersey, offering soup, bread, beverages, snacks, hygiene kits, and other essential supplies. In addition, staff and volunteers connect with clients to discuss their specific needs, and help guide them on a path towards self-sufficiency. “We try to cultivate an experience for our guests that is safe, that is welcoming, that is loving, and then we meet felt needs, like food through a meal, like socks and other emergency supplies that we give away,” Haken said. “We leverage those felt needs to build relationships with our guests, and then we have trained staff on site to function as navigators” towards resources like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Medicaid, housing, and mental health services.
Before the pandemic, NYC Relief was serving 1,000 to 1,500 people a week.The number of visitors quadrupled in the spring as there were fewer options where people could turn. Lines went on for blocks while guests patiently waited for some comfort. “Our lines just exploded,” Haken said. “We became one of the few organizations that continued to serve a hot meal in New York through the months of March and April. I’ve never seen desperation like that, just for simple things like food or a place to sit.”
Though the situation was slightly less dire throughout the summer, the demand spiked again this fall. Keeping an operation like this going is not easy. NYC Relief relies on support from the community, and that need has multiplied during the pandemic. Nunbelievable is proud to work with NYC Relief and our other impact partners,donating proceeds from every cookie we sell towards meals for those dealing with hunger.
We encourage you to do whatever you can to help NYC Relief’s mission. Haken told us thatfinancial donations are critical. And if you are young and healthy and can manage tovolunteer, they welcome the help. You can also contribute to theirclothing drives — with winter here, there’s a major need for high-quality outerwear and gloves. And, of course, you can chip in bybuying delicious handcrafted Nunbelievable cookies.