North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO) is an interfaith organization dedicated to increasing the self-sufficiency of people in crisis, hardship and poverty. This agency’s work is rooted in President Johnson’s War on Poverty and Community Action work: changing people’s lives, embodying hope and improving communities.
Prior to the local COVID-19 outbreak, all services were delivered face-to-face. Staff would provide a one-on-one orientation to the services available, determine the best-fit services and then work with the client on a plan for achieving their goals and reaching economic security.
That changed rapidly when the pandemic hit and in-person meetings were no longer possible. Particularly hard hit were the agency’s intensive case management services, which had to be completely rethought as a remote interaction. Clients now use their phones to take photos of documents to send to workers, virtual meetings are being conducted, and the agency is using Google Voice numbers so that staff can use personal devices for connecting with clients but still protect their privacy. From March 1st through May 31st, NHCO served over 1,000 families, almost 20% of whom were new clients.
The pandemic also provided an opportunity for NHCO to revisit the use of videos, which previously had been used only intermittently to market services and supports. The agency produced a video to remind their communities that although the NHCO offices were closed, the staff were still working to support existing and new clients’ needs. Since that video was posted, it has been viewed over 500 times and shared another dozen times, reaching countless more individuals.
The agency continues to look for ways to innovate and reach out to the community, however and whenever they can. As Carolyn Pschirer, Director of Services says, “We are in a business of helping people, and when people aren’t coming in, that means we can’t work the way we are used to. [We] continue to adapt, continue to depend on technology.” However, she also points out that social media and technology platforms are only relevant for the people who can access them. And reaching individuals in need who do not have the technology and devices continues to be a challenge, one that NHCO is determined to overcome.