Your Turn: Let’s protect the vulnerable

Life has changed.

All that is critically important to each of us is now more clearly in focus. Life is precious. Family and community are treasured gifts, more central to life than we may have realized in the busy and hectic days before life changed. The unknowns, the worries, the concerns all are added challenges to each of us as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sadly, another wave of worry and concern is sure to follow the damping of the virus curve. Our community must prepare now to provide the supports and services necessary to respond to lives affected by significant loss of wages and income. Especially hard hit will be local households below the 30% Average Medium Income in our area.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development released recently but before the pandemic, 1 in 28 Kansas children experience early childhood homelessness. Additionally, 22% of families with children under 18 live in high-cost-burden housing, which means housing costs make up more than 50% of the household income. Again, this statistic stood prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

We all must work collaboratively with our health care providers, community leaders and social service agencies. We all must work together with compassion, understanding and generosity. Of course, we cannot come together physically at this time, but we can join to help protect our most vulnerable citizens. We can share accurate information with kindness, we can donate food and supplies, and we can support local nonprofits in our community so they can remain open and active when our community needs them all more than ever.

Please continue to reach out to local lawmakers and ask that they are wise and flexible in their funding and work toward legislation that supports vulnerable households and affordable housing during and after the crisis.

Through the still unknown challenges ahead, Family Promise of Lawrence will strive to continue to serve local families in need. We are open and working with families through our Diversion Program, which we started in June. This program focuses on diverting families to safe alternatives other than shelter with continued case management supports. That program, now more than ever, is critical. We are continuing all case management supports through electronic connections with families in all our programs. Our temporary housing units are filled, and we are working with graduates of the programs, as well, to help them navigate the enormity of issues that come with this crisis. Through this, we will keep our focus as a beacon of hope and encouragement, advocacy and support.

— Dana M. Ortiz is the executive director of Family Promise of Lawrence.


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