The coronavirus does not discriminate. Everyone is vulnerable. But there are certainly segments of the population that are especially endangered by this terrifying pandemic. The homeless community in particular has been hit hard, with their already difficult lives being turned upside down this year.
The Nunbelievable mission is to help those in need by giving back to the community, so this critical issue is especially important to us. We are proud to support the work of New York City Relief, an organization that helps people struggling with homelessness and the hungry get back on their feet. We've already had a chance to experience their work firsthand when we volunteered at one of their outreach events in February. And now we're amazed by the way this incredible group has stepped up its efforts in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
An Overnight Emergency Situation
When shutdown orders were imposed in New York and New Jersey in mid-March, homeless people lost many of the resources they rely on for survival, including food pantries, clothing distribution organizations, restaurants, libraries, public bathrooms, and showering facilities. "A lot of our guests started instantly coming to our outreach locations hungrier than normal," says Josiah Haken, NYC Relief's vice president of outreach. "They didn't have access to food immediately. They were struggling to find resources. We were overrun and had lines around the block. We had more people than ever coming to our outreach for food and emergency supplies."
While NYC Relief — which was founded in 1989 — provides clients with warm meals and essential supplies, the core of their mission is to deliver hope while helping people develop individualized action plans to help improve their lives, including finding shelter, work, and a healthy lifestyle. "We've always provided food for our guests, but normally our emphasis has been on building a community and connections," says Haken, who has been with the organization for 10 years. "We've served millions of meals, but it's always been in the context of building those relationships."
Relief in a Time of Crisis
NYC Relief's team quickly adapted to the new reality, helping clients find the resources they desperately need and increasing the amount of meals being served at their mobile outreach locations in New York City and New Jersey. "Our organization also had to evolve because we have twice as many people coming to us for services, and we have to keep them socially distant and safe," says Haken. Guests are encouraged to keep social distance while waiting to be served, and masks and hand sanitizer are provided.
NYC Relief has been serving at least 1,000 people each week. That includes hot soup and bread, snacks, hot chocolate, lemonade, and fruit punch as well as hygiene kits and socks. "Fortunately we have been able to keep up with the demand. We are actively checking on our supply lines and our inventory," Haken emphasizes, but adds that "we are spending more money now than we were before, which is a challenge."
While the situation has been dire, Haken says he has been inspired by the response on the front line. "What I have loved seeing is that the organizations that are serving our homeless neighbors are really working together more than ever," he says. "We are part of the Rescue Alliance, which is a collaboration of faith-based organizations that serve the homeless in New York City. We have continued through this process to try to work together and share resources, notes, and ideas."
How You Can Help
A key part of our mission at Nunbelievable is to work with those on the front lines in the fight against hunger in America, and we encourage our customers to get involved in this essential undertaking. We've teamed up with New York City Relief as an impact partner to help amplify their message and provide vital support. They are always looking for donations of cash and resources as well as volunteers. You can find out more about how you can pitch in at newyorkcityrelief.org.
In addition, we have recently introduced a new line of Nunbelievable ceramic mugs and we are donating a portion of the proceeds from each mug sold to NYC Relief's beverage fund. (Order them below) "I'm a big believer that offering our friends the dignity of choice is so much better than just telling them what they're getting," Haken says of the multiple beverage options they provide. "This a population that is always being told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, so just being asked if you'd like a lemonade or a fruit punch or hot chocolate or water, makes it feel more empowering for people."
We couldn't be happier to support the valuable work of New York City Relief and hope that you can join us. "We are grateful to Nunbelievable and to your customers for caring about those who are struggling economically," Haken says. "By investing your resources and your profits into organizations like New York City Relief is a testimony to the integrity of your organization and your generosity."