Before the COVID-19 crisis emerged, we thought we understood why we were building partnerships, meeting regularly to share ideas, and working together on citywide public health issues as the Healthier Perth Amboy coalition. Today, our city is facing an unprecedented crisis – our hospital is overwhelmed, our small businesses are losing money, and our residents are struggling to get by without their jobs. Among those who are especially vulnerable in our community are our undocumented residents, who cannot apply for government assistance; our homeless community members, who now lack the most basic resources such as having access to a bathroom, and our children, who now must navigate virtual learning with limited resources and a stressful home environment.
As we see and experience our community’s suffering in the face of this pandemic, we realize how integral our partnerships have been to our response efforts. Over the past few weeks we have been working on leveraging our coalition partners’ resources to ensure that our residents’ critical needs are met.
One of our Healthier Perth Amboy partners, the Perth Amboy Public School District, set up three drive-up food distribution sites providing packaged meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) for children and families in the community. The district then expanded its Emergency Food Service Plan to include a fourth distribution site at the Perth Amboy Office of Recreation.
Another partner, the City of Perth Amboy Department of Human Services, is distributing meals to seniors and those who request meal delivery as well as supporting 10 local food pantries. The Raritan Bay Area YMCA, has opened its doors to individuals experiencing homelessness. In collaboration with partners like the Perth Amboy Salvation Army, PARTNER, God’s Army Ministries of NJ, and the Chaplain Corps, the Raritan Bay Area YMCA welcomes those who are homeless and housing vulnerable to shower at its facilities twice a week, and receive meals, hygiene products and additional services during their visits. By leveraging each community partner’s specific area of expertise, coordinating resources and community messaging, we are able to maximize our coalition’s impact on our community.