After 37 years at the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, Chief Executive Officer, John Westervelt, thought he might have seen it all. Until now.

As COVID-19 continues to spread so rapidly, Westervelt’s team continues to serve the community, targeting key areas with the dual goals of safety and good health. Even when the city ‘shuts down,’ CCAN is there to serve the homeless, the hungry, the fragile, the seniors, the abused, underserved children, and all who need them.

Mental Health: using technology to support the telehealth platform, CCAN now uses online access to address the needs of more clients than through in-person meetings. With HIPPA rules temporarily relaxed in the face of the pandemic, they are able to combine in-house visits with iPhone and online visits as the situation demands. But all the offices are staffed so that those clients who need and want to have real face time. The offices are being cleaned and carefully maintained so that everyone is safe.

Homelessness: As one of New Jersey’s largest shelter systems with its 350 beds, John is also appreciative of the support from hotels in counties and cities across the state who are helping the homeless with accommodations. Social distancing is hard to maintain under these conditions but everyone is doing their best.

Along with providing shelter, providing food is also a primary concern. As the key source for about 80 pantries, they are trying to keep the shelves filled. The community has been terrific. Just this week, the Knights of Columbus announced they are sending $50,000 for Easter meals which will come in very handy at just the right time.

Homeowner Challenges: For many of the more than one thousand daily callers to the CCAN hotline, the inability to pay rent or utilities at this time is quickly becoming an insurmountable challenge. CCAN draws on grants to help cover emergencies when they can – but they also anticipate that the state and federal government will provide funds for these situations going forward. The utility companies have announced that all services will continue regardless of the ability to keep payments current at this time.

Domestic Violence: The rise in domestic violence is not unexpected under these unusual circumstances. “Shelter in place” forces families into often unacceptable situations – with children home from school and parents stretched beyond their own coping skills. It is a perfect storm. But there are shelters where victims can go to escape danger – even in the midst of the pandemic – to get support and be in a safe environment until this passes.

Children’s Services: The staff at CCAN is using a wide range of tools to keep in contact with families, ensuring children are safe and fed, are attending online classes, doing homework, and getting the appropriate attention they need. In some instances, this is on site, in other instances this is accomplished by a phone call or online visit. In every case, despite the increase in demands for counselors, the situations and newly emerging emotional challenges are being carefully and thoughtfully attended to.

Senior Services: The elderly are among the most likely to be facing isolation and anxiety. It is up to the staff at CCAN to call, check in, shop, visit, and even offer protective services for those who they suspect are victims of abuse.

What changes will be likely to take place going forward?

  • For starters, it can be expected that, at least in the short term, traditional fundraising may be drastically changed. Even as COVID-19 slows and perhaps ceases, fund raising and donor behavior will probably lag behind! In lieu of large gatherings, virtual giving may become the primary source for donors.  This is already being demonstrated by the recent $25,000 response to John Westervelt’s open letter recently sent to the community at large.
  • Secondly, the trend to utilizing the telehealth technology platform in place of in-person, face-to-face interaction, will grow in popularity until it becomes generally adopted by all.
  • Lastly, there will be a renewed focus on health and safety for all the communities they serve.

No matter what occurs, CCAN will be there.