Strong in Times of Crisis

Education, financial stability and health are the fundamentals needed to build safe and stable lives.

by Jennifer Zammuto, Heart of Illinois United Way

As a community-wide collaborator and problem solver, the Heart of Illinois United Way has proven that we are built to support central Illinois in times like these, no matter the challenge. By focusing our efforts on improving the education, financial stability and health of our community members, we are supporting the fundamentals of what is needed to build safe and stable lives. 

Meeting Critical Needs
September 2020 marks the official kickoff of our 98th annual campaign, which is only successful because of the generosity of the people of central Illinois. Through our Community Impact Fund, we continually leverage our community’s donations to ensure our region has a solid foundation of health and human care services that remain strong in times of crisis and adapt to meet the greatest needs over time. 

During a crisis like this year’s COVID-19 response, an investment in our Community Impact Fund is the best way to support local, critical needs as identified in our 2020 Heart of Illinois United Way Community Assessment (available online at hoiunitedway.org). As the COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll on our community and daily lives, United Way has been at the table with other community leaders working to address immediate needs, direct available resources, and look ahead to what services the people in our community need to thrive. 

Since March 2020, our 2-1-1 information and referral service, in partnership with Advanced Medical Transport, has experienced a 250% increase in calls from people in need. Faced with questions about COVID-19 and the loss of income and resources, callers are seeking help to find local food pantries, assistance with utility bills, childcare services, and advice on how to apply for unemployment or pay the rent. 

Since March 2020, the 2-1-1 information and referral service has experienced a 250% increase in calls from people in need.
Since March 2020, the 2-1-1 information and referral service has experienced a 250% increase in calls from people in need.

Foundational Support
We also know access to stable housing is the foundation upon which all other support, including healthcare, is built. Through our Home for All - Homeless Continuum of Care, we are focused on ending homelessness by ensuring everyone has access to permanent, safe and affordable housing. Persons experiencing homelessness are also at a higher risk of developing hygiene-related illnesses due to the lack of access to facilities, running water and basic hygiene supplies. 

Everyone deserves the basic comfort and safety that comes from access to restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. This fall, the Heart of Illinois United Way and our Home for All - Homeless Continuum of Care will partner with Phoenix Community Development Services to launch a new mobile hygiene unit. HOWIE (“Hygiene. On. Wheels. Independence. Empowered.”) will do more than provide a restroom, shower and clean clothes—it will provide a fresh start by supporting people moving through the homeless system. By serving as an entry point, our partners can help connect people to critical resources that will put them on the path to stable housing. 

Whether you are making a donation or volunteering your time, it is so important to remember that there are real people facing challenging situations, who need the support of partner agencies and schools to make a positive change in their lives. PM

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