Service quickly shifts focus from poverty reduction to basic needs support

Santa Maria Community Services serves the Greater Price Hill community by advocating for families through educational, financial, and health services. Their work is focused on supporting the entire family, giving them the resources to move on a path out of poverty.

When COVID-19 hit, the pandemic forced them to urgently shift from helping people out of poverty to helping them survive a difficult economic crisis. Staff and volunteers began thinking differently about how they meet families where they are to provide basic needs — like reliable shelter and adequate food.

Home visitors, who normally provide educational guidance and support to families, began delivering food, grocery gift cards, and other essential items to client’s homes.

The team at Santa Maria knows that technology is a barrier for many families they serve and not everyone is up to date with the latest coronavirus news and restrictions. S, they’ve begun texting and calling clients daily to share knowledge and available resources. They also have moved many of their educational services, like Every Child Succeeds, support groups, and their GED program to virtual experiences clients don’t fall behind.

“The COVID-19 Regional Response Fund helped us to provide immediate relief to those in the community who need it most,” says Susan Conrad, program director of Santa Maria. “It feels good to know that Santa Maria is trusted to ensure that funds will be used equitably and without the hassle of complex reporting. Because of this, our staff feels empowered to focus on the needs of our community, right away.”

Santa Maria received two grants from the fund. The $15,000 grant was split between programs that will be used for relief efforts among immigrants and the $25,000 grant is for emergency relief support.

The COVID-19 Regional Response Fund has distributed more than $7 million into the community to support residents who are most disproportionately affected by — and most vulnerable to — the health, economic, education, housing, and social impacts of the crisis.

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