What has OCP been up to during the pandemic?
By Sam Nickels, Exec. Director at OCP
Since March, OCP has gone through a major transformation. Like a butterfly
emerging slowly from a cocoon, OCP has evolved into a new creature. But our
mission and vision remain the same: basic needs and basic love. Thanks to all our
partners too who have worked with us to make this possible—Early Church, Hope
Distributed, Mercy House, Open Doors, Suitcase Clinic, the Housing Authority, and
many others. Here’s what we’ve been up to over the last two months…
We expanded food services from 5 to 7 days/week. We continue to receive
and use large volumes of food donations, donations from the local food
bank, and sharing among agencies in town.
Revamped our Friday Lunch Restaurant into a carry-out and delivery
operation, while continuing to feed anyone in need at no cost.
Trained staff and volunteers in safety protocols, and received umpteen
million donations of handmade masks, hand sanitizer, paper towels, and so
much more (THANK YOU).
Provided case management services several days a week at a motel where
Suitcase Clinic has screened and Mercy House has placed homeless
persons who are at high risk for death if they come down with COVID-19.
Coordinated new volunteers to take food to high-risk motel 7 days/week for
about 20 people.
Provided case management services two nights a week at the Open Doors
shelter to help homeless persons there meet their needs, apply for food
stamps, apply for stimulus checks, sign up for local housing programs,
figure out how to save money to move into housing, address landlord repair
issues, and much more.
Provided case management services 3 to 5 days a week at the high-risk
motel, to help residents finish paperwork for housing vouchers, repair
vehicles, provide quarters and detergent for people to do their own laundry
at the motel, apply for Medicaid, coordinate with Suitcase Clinic to access
medications without leaving the motel, meet special food needs, handle
phone problems/repairs, resolve conflicts that arise, monitor health and
safety and room cleanliness, and much more.
Hired sufficient staffing so when one or two people are out on quarantine,
we still have enough staffing to cover shifts, volunteer management, kitchen
operations, case management in three locations, and administrative needs
of the organization. While no staff have tested positive, three have been
tested due to flu-like symptoms.
Specific case management work during the last 2 months has included the
Now with more case managers, we’ve been able to reach a lot more people
to get them setup for housing; gotten more of the paperwork piece done so
more folks qualify for housing.
By the end of this week we’ll have a couple and an individual from the motel
into permanent housing with vouchers.
We’ve screened about 30 people for housing
We completed about 20+ housing applications
We’ve visited and worked with about 15 individuals in Lineweaver and other
apartments where our community members reside and need special
support; many calls have also been made in addition to face to face visits.
We have completed rep payee applications to SSA to manage people’s
money for 4 people who have histories of poor money management. Two
have been approved already. Now we are starting to work on placing these
two into housing because we can manage their funds and pay their rent on
This week we hired another case manager to focus specifically on calling
landlords and researching housing options for people with vouchers, people
who can private-pay, and people who are high priority but who are not
eligible for vouchers and who do not have income.
We assisted people with online applications at agencies like DSS that no
longer see people face-to-face: SNAP, Medicaid applications and renewals,
we have tried helping people with ID’s but it’s very slow because DMV will
only see people by setting up appointments ahead of time, so we do that
and then provide transportation and go with people to navigate the DMV
system with them.
We have hooked a number of people to CSB mental health services.
We have referred to Suitcase Clinic and assisted many people with
accessing or picking up medications, especially for folks with critical needs
of very HBP and diabetes, and hooked them to HCHC and Suitcase Clinic
doctor visits, and called to assist people with trying to access emergency
dental care. We have also screened people with coronavirus symptoms and
transported a few people to the hospital for testing.
We helped people apply for stimulus checks, helped people to cash checks
at no cost, and offered to everyone the opportunity to save money at OCP
for housing and other needs (2 people have taken advantage of this
We worked with other agencies to coordinate delivery to homebound
disabled persons of furniture and food.
We have worked hard at the Open Doors shelter, the motel, and other
homeless folks to divert them back to other locations where they came from:
one person went to Hawaii, another to Fredericksburg, and another we are
working on to return to Bristol VA. Local agencies are working with hospitals
in Roanoke, Pulaski, and other far locations to stop sending people to Open
Doors shelter, which they are doing because most other shelters are closed
We helped 2 persons to pay off court and PO fees and get their rights
But we still have lots of questions and thoughts about what will happen in the
coming weeks: What if Open Doors closes after their contract with JMU expires on
June 9? Where are the 10 or 15 people living on the streets staying at night? (We
know that groups of campers have been removed from different locations around
town several times.) How many people will be evicted by landlords and become
homeless once the courts open back up? We don’t know the answers to these
questions, but with strong continued support from our donors, OCP will be there to
continue our work.