Lewiston Housing Reflects on Three Years of Community Support and Resilience Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic
in: COVID-19 on: 03/29/2023
This March, as we observe the three-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Lewiston Housing recognizes the profound ways in which life has been altered. The pandemic presented numerous challenges, including widespread illness, loss, and economic hardship. It also necessitated the development of new methods of working, learning, and socializing. In the face of adversity, countless acts of kindness, resilience, and community support have emerged, demonstrating the strength of the human spirit.
In this article, we highlight the diverse efforts of Lewiston Housing as we responded to the pandemic. By providing food assistance, hosting vaccine clinics, offering free internet access, and maintaining regular phone calls to residents, we showcased the power of community collaboration and support during challenging times. These comprehensive efforts have played a vital role in alleviating the hardships experienced by residents and fostering a sense of unity and hope amidst uncertainty.
From the onset of the pandemic, we at Lewiston Housing prioritized the health and safety of our residents, initiating daily phone calls and text messages to assess their needs and extend assistance. Many of these residents were seniors, disabled individuals, or low-income families who confronted considerable challenges, including social isolation and limited access to essential goods and services. Our staff worked tirelessly to connect residents with crucial community resources, such as food banks, mental health services, and local organizations offering aid during the pandemic. The phone calls and assistance efforts proved invaluable in mitigating the pandemic’s impact on our residents, providing them with the resources necessary to stay healthy and safe while fostering a vital sense of community during a time of isolation.
Recognizing early in the COVID-19 pandemic that food insecurity would be a significant issue for our residents, particularly those who were seniors or disabled, our employees at Lewiston Housing quickly pivoted their focus to meet this need. They began delivering food daily from local organizations such as St. Mary’s Nutrition Center, Trinity Jubilee Center, Lewiston Public Schools, and Green Ladle. The support of these organizations and the tremendous help from volunteers ensured that our residents had access to the food and supplies they needed during this difficult time. This effort not only addressed immediate needs but also strengthened relationships within the community, demonstrating the power of collaboration in times of crisis.
In response to the growing issue of food insecurity among our residents, we at Lewiston Housing promptly partnered with Cooking for Community, a grassroots organization that raised funds to enable local restaurants to prepare healthy meals for those in need. Several local restaurants, including Boba, Davinci’s Eatery, and Sam’s Italian Foods, participated in the initiative, providing nearly 7,500 meals to our residents. The generosity of Androscoggin Bank, which donated $100,000 to Lewiston Housing, was instrumental in funding this program. This partnership also played a critical role in supporting the local economy, providing much-needed work to struggling restaurants and their staff during a time of reduced business activity.
Owing to the success of our partnership with Cooking for Community, we at Lewiston Housing added a food security coordinator to our staff. This position, partly funded by the Choice Neighborhoods grant, will continue to connect residents with food resources, ensuring ongoing access to healthy and nutritious meals. The creation of this role is a testament to our unwavering commitment to supporting the health and well-being of our residents. It also highlights our foresight in recognizing the need for long-term solutions to food insecurity, even as the immediate crisis begins to wane.
The COVID-19 pandemic also underscored the urgent need for digital equity as remote work and virtual schooling became increasingly indispensable. We noticed children sitting outside our office building to access Wi-Fi so that they could attend school. To address this issue, we installed Wi-Fi and provided free internet access to all residents at Hillview apartments, a property that houses 94 families and over 300 children. This initiative was vital in enabling children to attend virtual school and adults to work from home, alleviating the financial burden on families who were already grappling with the pandemic’s consequences. By bridging the digital divide, we ensured that our residents remained connected to educational and professional opportunities, as well as critical healthcare services and social support networks, all of which were essential for navigating the challenges of the pandemic.
In a further effort to safeguard our residents, we formed a partnership with Community Clinical Services, a Federal Qualified Health Center Look-Alike, to offer COVID-19 vaccine clinics. This groundbreaking collaboration marked the first instance in Maine of a public housing authority partnering with an FQHC to provide such services, serving as a model for other communities to emulate. To ensure that transportation was not a barrier for our residents, we collaborated with Community Concepts, Inc. to provide transportation to the clinic. As a result, over 200 residents received vaccinations in a convenient and accessible location, demonstrating the importance of community partnerships in addressing public health challenges.
Our partnership with Community Clinical Services not only facilitated the vaccination of our residents but also fostered a sense of trust and cooperation between public housing authorities and healthcare providers. This collaboration has the potential to pave the way for future joint initiatives, ensuring that vulnerable populations continue to receive the healthcare services they need in a timely and efficient manner.
As we at Lewiston Housing reflect on our pandemic response efforts over the past three years, we remain committed to supporting our residents and community. Our belief in the power of community partnerships and kindness underpins our confidence in overcoming future challenges, ensuring a stronger and more resilient community in the face of ongoing uncertainty.