Community organizations help in fight against coronavirus

Del Mar Community Connections' singing-apart event, a sing along in which participants use Zoom instead of meeting in person, helps keep residents connected.

Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, community organizations are trying to provide necessary services, brace for the long-term economic impacts and boost morale among local residents.

The city of Del Mar, along with most of the rest of San Diego County, has closed down beaches and other public areas.

“The city has been pretty proactive about shutting down public spaces and getting information out to the citizens,” said Ashley Simpkins, program director of the nonprofit Del Mar Community Connections, which serves local senior citizens.

DMCC’s services include grocery delivery and providing local seniors with transportation to medical appointments. To stave off the isolation from the current social distancing guidelines, the organization held a sing-a-long using Zoom, a suddenly ubiquitous video-conferencing software, with a volunteer on piano.

“It was such a bright light to do that,” Simpkins said.

The group is also using Zoom to continue holding a support group focused on the transitions that come with aging, as well as experiences of grief. Overall, many residents have remained optimistic and supportive of each other under the circumstances. Simpkins said DMCC is working to make sure it can continue to serve local seniors for as long as the current public health guidelines are in effect.

“I’ve never seen a community like Del Mar where they really do have an ethos of watching out for their neighbors and taking care of each other,” she added.

As elected officials throughout the state began issuing orders for Californians to close certain businesses, stay at home and practice social distancing, there was some confusion among the people typically served by the nonprofit Community Resource Center in Encinitas.

“Last week, we saw a lot of uncertainty and fear and people staying away because they didn’t know what to do,” said John Van Cleef, the center’s executive director. “This week, what we’ve seen is people returning and more people coming to us for providing their basic day-to-day food necessities.”

There have also been sobering new consequences due to the pandemic. The center has experienced an increase in calls to its domestic violence hotline, Van Cleef said, in addition to more people seeking rapid rehousing assistance.

The Community Resource Center has launched a fundraiser that is more than halfway to achieving its $500,000 goal. With surge in unemployment claims due to the mandatory closures of bars, restaurant dining rooms and other nonessential businesses, the money will boost homeless prevention efforts and other services. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that unemployment claims in California surpassed one million since mid-March.

“This campaign is about looking ahead to the long-term economic impact,” Van Cleef said.

Elected leaders and public health officials throughout the state have been scrambling to address the homeless population, which is especially vulnerable to spreading COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Securing hotel rooms to help them provide shelter-in-place is one of the actions currently underway.

“While this has shined a spotlight on the crisis around homelessness, this has also shined a light on the generosity of people to do something about it,” Van Cleef said.