Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, March 31, 2020 @ 6:13 p.m. / Community, Emergencies, Health
Del Norte Food Organizations, Tribes Offer Safety Net During COVID-19 Emergency
Despite being taxed early on due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social safety nets are continuing to provide services to elders and families suddenly struggling as a result of the crisis.
Operations at some of these organizations have altered to prevent the virus’s spread, but emergency food is still available from Rural Human Services. The Community Food Council’s Pacific Pantry is allowing its patrons to choose the items they want again, though they’re not allowed in the pantry.
The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation is streamlining the process for elders, families and individuals to access assistance programs. And the Yurok Tribe has launched a toll-free COVID-19 information line, connecting members to its office of emergency services, health and human services and elder assistance.
And those who are eligible are urged to sign up for CalFresh benefits, though the Del Norte County Department of Health and Human Services are taking steps to reduce traffic into its office on Northcrest Drive, according to program manager Dorothy Waddelow.
“During this time counties have been given directives from the California Department of Social Services to expedite the application process for people applying for benefits whenever possible,” Waddelow told the Wild Rivers Outpost via email Tuesday.
People can pick up an application at DHHS’s office at 880 Northcrest Drive and return them by email, via a drop box in front of its building or sent via fax machine at (707) 465-1783, she said. Residents can also apply for CalFresh benefits online at C4Yourself.com.
“We at Del Norte County DHHS have seen a slight increase in the number of applications and the majority of these have come through the C4Yourself.com access point,” she said.
COVID-19 has yet to officially show itself in Del Norte County, according to the Public Health Branch. A total of 66 tests had been administered and the results from 59 had returned negative as of 5:08 p.m. Tuesday. The results from seven tests are pending, according to the Public Health Branch.
On March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order for all Californians due to limit the spread of the virus.
Del Norte Public Health Officer Warren Rehwaldt on Friday issued an order barring local motels, hotels, vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts from housing people traveling for leisure.
The week following Newsom’s stay-at-home order, sparse grocery store shelves prompted more people than normal to turn to RHS for emergency food boxes, said Dawn Venturi, who oversees the organization’s food bank.
RHS is also the Del Norte source for people receiving food through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s commodities program, Venturi said. She speculated that RHS gave out 757 bags in March, roughly 100 to 150 more than in February.
“I work with mostly a volunteer crew, so we do the best we can with the crew we have to get everybody served,” she said.
“Last month it was amazing. People did their own social distancing, we had hand sanitizer. I heard from the radio that we did a great job. We had another phone from someone amazed at how organized and friendly and helpful (we) were.”
Venturi said four to eight help distribute boxes during RHS’s regular distribution on the third full week of the month. One to two volunteers help give out emergency boxes. She said they make sure to use gloves, hand sanitizer and masks.
For more information about RHS’s food programs, call (707) 464-7441.
Amanda Hixson, food program director for the Community Food Council, also noted that sparse supermarket shelves may have hindered those purchasing food for their families. But the supply chain appears to be picking back up, she said.
Pacific Pantry will return to its normal hours of operation this week — 2- 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. It will also offer a choice to their clients, though it will be a modified choice, Hixson said.
“The way we’re keeping with social distancing guidelines is people will come and we will sign them in and then the person will be handed a list of items we have available at the pantry,” Hixson said. “Based on their household size, the person will check off what he or she wants, hand that to the volunteer who will put it in a bag and hand it to the person. People will be able to pick what they like, but they won’t be inside the pantry.”
While Pacific Pantry and RHS can help fill a gap, those who suddenly find themselves unable to make ends meet due to the pandemic may be better served enrolling in CalFresh, Hixson said. She noted food pantries are needed, but without CalFresh, they wouldn’t be able to offer the kind of support they’re able to.
“I’ve heard the statistic of 10 people are supported through CalFresh to one person through an emergency food distribution pantry,” she said. “So, we definitely wouldn’t encourage everyone to start using the pantry as their first option.”
The Pacific Pantry is operated out of the Family Resource Center of the Redwoods at 494 Pacific Avenue in Crescent City.
The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation is collecting data on the number of citizens who have been laid off as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. Those who are out of work are urged to call the Tolowa Employment Rights Office at (707) 487-9255 extension 1165 or email email@example.com.
Tribal representatives will also check-in with elders on a regular basis and will use that information to inform actions under its emergency operations plan, according to a Tuesday news release.
“The emergency plan establishes a strong foundation to maintain the continuity of government operations,” Chief Governance Officer Briannon Fraley said in a written statement. “We are doing everything possible to address the many facets of this complex emergency and keep our community safe.”
In addition to still offering services for those struggling with addiction, domestic violence survivors and those suffering from child elder or vulnerable adult abuse, the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation has streamlined its process for providing services to its citizens.
Tribal members are urged to call (707) 487-3183 to access the elder emergency program as well as assistance with medical travel and hospitalization.
The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Child Care Services programs are also taking new applicants.
The Yurok Tribe's COVID-19 information line is 1-888-225-8952. According to a news release Tuesday, this hotline will connect people to the Yurok Office of Emergency Services, assistance for elders and its Yurok Health and Human Services program. The tribe urges members to leave a message if no one is available to take their call.
Yurok tribal members can also access TANF, general assistance and burial assistance by calling (707) 482-1350 extension 1415 in Klamath.
Food is also available by appointment only, though new applicatants are only limited to Yurok elders and those who are disabled and will be taken by appointment only. Tailgate deliveries are expected to continue as scheduled.