Family on verge of homelessness struggles to connect to services amid COVID-19 response

COVID-19 hits one Tucson family with hardship

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Since the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S. hard earlier this month, some are finding themselves on the verge of homelessness.

For one family, the biggest challenge has been getting the help they need.

“Nana Cathy” said she moved into a Tucson motel with her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren two weeks ago after receiving an unexpected bill.

“When we got a $1,700 water bill we had to move out [of the place we were renting],” Nana Cathy said. “Nowadays, all of the landlords are wanting first and last month’s deposit. We were doing fine until all of the [Coronavirus restrictions] came down and my daughter’s work shut down. She has no way of working because the bar she was working in was shut down.”

Nana Cathy said her daughter was paying for the motel, but they are running out of money. They are also low on food.

“For us, this is rock bottom,” she said. “We have never been in this situation before.”

Nana Cathy, 66, said she has heart problems, which puts her in an “at-risk category” for the virus. Unable to leave her motel room, Cathy has been making a lot of phone calls.

“Unfortunately, I never learned how to use the internet,” she said. “I have been calling the 211 number and they are not answering. I’ve called them almost every day.”

The 211 Arizona helpline is staffed by referral specialists who connect people to services in their communities.

According to 211arizona.org, the helpline pulls from a database of over 13,000 participating programs and 37,000 community services.

Nana Cathy said she hasn’t been able to get through to a person. The 211 automated message warns some of the information may not be up to date.

Struggling to get answers, Nana Cathy said she’s resorted to calling churches.

“But it seems all of the churches are shut down due to the virus,” she said.

With only two days left to stay in her motel, she’s desperate for a breakthrough.

“These babies are our lives, these kids are our lives,” she said. “I’m sure there are other people out there in the same situation.”

On Sunday, Gov. Doug Ducey announced $2 million in funding for a new statewide COVID-19 hotline through 211 Arizona and the Crisis Response Network. The hotline is operated by the Crisis Response Network.

People in need can reach out to the governor’s Constituent’s Office to connect with a caseworker providing state resources. That number is (602)-542-4331.

Gospel Rescue Mission says it has space for families on a first-come-first-serve basis. Those in need of a place to stay can call (520)-740-1501.

The Salvation Army Hospitality House is also working to shelter, clothe and feed people. Volunteers can be reached at (520)-622-5411.

The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona is continuing to serve people but has turned into drive-through food service. For more information call (520)-622-0525.

Pima County Meals on Wheels delivers meals to older people and those with disabilities. For more information, call (520)-790-7262.

UPDATE:

Nana Cathy says she is overwhelmed and beyond grateful for the support the community has shown. Many people have reached out offering to pay for her motel or bring her family food. This has bought her more time. Several local organizations have also been in contact with Nana Cathy. She was able to get an appointment on Friday regarding an affordable housing complex, which she said is ideal given that she worries about contracting the virus and not being able to care for her family.

We also heard from the Crisis Response Network.

“After learning of this family’s unfortunate situation via the KOLD story, we reached out to reporter Hanna Tiede for their information and have contacted Nana Cathy directly to discuss assistance options in their area,” said Justin Chase, the President and CEO of Crisis Response Network, which operates the 2-1-1 Arizona program.

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