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NCOs New Digs Provides Help to Lake County

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The New Digs Rapid Rehousing Program received a $500 donation from the Rotary Club of Lakeport to support their Shelter in Place Food Drive.

The New Digs Rapid Rehousing program follows a Housing First model and aims to help those experiencing homelessness find and secure permanent housing. The program offers housing stabilization through short-term rental assistance and intensive case management. The program has served over 300 people since inception in 2017 and currently supports approximately 100 clients. In 2019, New Digs actively housed over 50 people who were experiencing homelessness at the time they entered the program. 

In response to the COVID-19 emergency, the New Digs Shelter in Place Food Drive was created to support New Digs clients experiencing lost wages by delivering personal care packages to those most vulnerable. Deliveries include fresh fruit, an array of non-perishable food, laundry soap, diapers and baby formula when needed. The project is actively seeking donations.

New Digs is a program of North Coast Opportunities Inc., (NCO) and is led by Director of Community Projects, Robyn Bera. “When the shelter in place ordinance hit, we knew we had to act quickly,” says Bera. “Many of our clients are fragile and working toward regaining their independence while maintaining permanent housing. We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to help them avoid slipping back into homelessness.” It is the combination of financial assistance, intensive case management, landlord partnerships, and long-term planning that lends itself toward long-term client success. “Food security is often a challenge for our clients, and we are working hard to make sure their basic needs for housing, food and hygiene are met.”

Within a week of the shelter in place ordinance the New Digs team started fundraising while working with local grocery stores and partners. “We love this community and the support has been tremendous,” adds Housing Navigator Deanna Fernweh. “We are grateful to Lakeport Rotary for donating $500.00 to our project and to Redwood Credit Union. Lakeport Grocery Outlet and Lakeport Dollar Store have been critical partners in this effort too. ” In its first week the project provided home delivery to over 20 households using a method that is safe for both staff and clients and adheres to all social distancing recommendations. Household sizes range from 1-8.

Meanwhile, Lead Housing Case Manager Cindy Storrs led a campaign to call all 300 clients in the New Digs database. “Our case management team immediately pulled together and started surveying our current and past clients to understand their needs and how this emergency was having an impact on them,” says Storrs. Using vulnerability scoring criteria, Storrs and team identified the most vulnerable clients, often focusing on those with medical needs, limited transportation and lost wages. “We hope to increase the number of households we serve each week and we anticipate client needs will rise each week this continues.”

NCO is also partnering with the Department of Social Services, Catholic Charities, Lake Transit, Lake County Office of Education AmeriCorps, and many other agencies to launch the Community Food Drive Project in mid-April. This project will also deliver food and resources directly to the homes of residents, with priority given to those experiencing food insecurity as a direct result of COVID-19. While still in development, more information is available at 993-4644.

NCO is providing additional support in response to the community effects from COVID-19:

Head Start and Early Head Start Centers have shifted to a modified learning system with at home activities and regular teacher/family contact. This system will remain in place until May 1st (this date will continue to be reviewed and adjusted as needed).

Rural Communities Child Care continues to support providers who are providing child care. Child care remains an essential support service as mandated by the Governor’s office. If individuals are in need of child care, please email childcare@ncoinc.org or call (707) 263-4688 ext. 410 with your name, phone number where you can be reached, the days and hours of child care needed, and age of child(ren) needing care.

NCO Volunteer Network is currently recruiting emergency volunteers to help with the COVID-19 response. Please visit volunteernco.org for more information. In addition, Tax preparation volunteers are rescheduling tax appointments with VITA clients. (US and State tax deadlines have been extended).

Redwood Caregiver Resource Center continues to be available to provide remote support for caregivers providing care for adults with brain impairments. For more information, please visit their website www.redwoodcrc.org. Alternatively, those needing assistance, can call 1 (800) 834-1636.

New Digs is actively seeking donations. Any funds not immediately used by New Digs will be directed to the Community Food Drive Project, in this way, donors can still support the home delivery of food to local people in need. To donate or learn more contact Robyn Bera at rbera@ncoinc.org or call 278-8696.

For more information about the New Digs Program or NCO, visit www.ncoinc.org or call (707) 467-3200 and leave a message (staff are monitoring and returning calls). Anyone currently experiencing homelessness may call New Digs directly at (707) 461-4574 and request to join the waiting list. Due to limitations with COVID-19, New Digs is limited in its ability to accept new clients at this time.

Program(s) Involved: New Digs: Lake County