By Megan Stammeyer
Special to The Witness
DUBUQUE — In a global pandemic, the needs of an organization and its staff change with every news cycle and that is particularly true of the Catholic Charities team. The staff at Catholic Charities has adapted processes to suit the needs of clients and has continued to provide immigration legal services, counseling, jail and prison ministry, affordable housing, and disaster relief assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The disaster relief program has been particularly prominent during this crisis. As of June 1, 2020, Catholic Charities has provided over $45,000 in disaster relief assistance to 446 individuals across the archdiocese.
“The Disaster Relief Fund has made an incredible impact in the community,” Stacy Sherman, outreach director at Catholic Charities, explained that “this funding has allowed Catholic Charities to so far assist 134 households. These were all families who experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19, and by receiving help with rent or other bills, have been able to stay in their homes. We are grateful to all the generous donors and the partnerships that have helped us meet the needs of these families.”
In addition to assisting families with their most basic needs, Catholic Charities has continued to provide affordable housing to high risk populations. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was evident that implementation of preventative measures would be required to protect the vulnerable population of seniors, in particular, who call Catholic Charities’ apartments, home. Early in the pandemic, staff began closing common areas, increasing their daily disinfecting of high-touch areas, and cancelling group events with residents.
Matthew Roddy, Catholic Charities’ housing director, noted that “a key part of the plan from the beginning was to maintain a site presence. I did not want our residents feeling abandoned. We also had to determine how we could make this safe for residents, staff, and essential service providers.”
At the Ecumenical Tower location in downtown Dubuque, the 80 residents had pressing needs for food, medicine and social interaction, so the staff got to work with creative solutions. Catholic Charities partnered with St. Vincent de Paul for a delivery of basic groceries, including milk, bread, eggs, and chicken breasts for all residents in the building. The housing team has been, and will continue to work around the clock to ensure that they are taking every measure to mitigate potential exposure to COVID-19.
The impacts of COVID-19 have led to a higher demand for services in all programs of Catholic Charities due to new barriers and challenges for their clients. The Immigration Legal Services team continued to work remotely with clients to provide free consultations and maintain legal representation. Catholic Charities counseling has met the increased need for brain health services through a quick integration of home-based telehealth counseling across the 30 counties of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Now, more than ever, due to many other service programs being cut back, the support the clients from Jail & Prison Ministry received from their mentors and support groups was key in maintaining their success.
“Since the pandemic began, we’ve encountered individuals and families every day who struggle with these needs and so many more,” said Tracy Morrison, Executive Director for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. “As Iowa begins to reopen, people are going to continue facing challenges and relying on local organizations to help meet their basic needs.”
The programs at Catholic Charities have served nearly 3,000 individuals since the escalation of the pandemic in March 2020 and will continue the work of reducing poverty, strengthening families and empowering communities. If you or someone you know is in need of help, visit https://catholiccharitiesdubuque.org/ or call 800-772-2758.
Stammeyer is Public Relations Director for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul recently delivered groceries to residents of Ecumenical Tower in Dubuque. (Contributed photo)