Every headline reports the devastating impact on our economy as a result of the pandemic. As of mid-May, the unemployment rate in the U.S. increased to over 14% and forecasts warn that this trend will continue in the coming months. But, in many neighborhoods, even in DuPage County, we see just how disproportionately Covid has affected job loss, with unemployment rates approaching 3x the national average.
At Outreach, 40% of residents in our transitional housing centers have been furloughed or lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Although they were quickly approved for unemployment benefits, as of June 1st, none had received the benefits they were counting on. Michelle de Muir, Program Director at Jubilee Village, noted that one resident “expressed deep gratitude she was living at Jubilee Village”. Having lost her job and daycare due to the pandemic, she wondered where she and her daughter would have ended up if she had been living elsewhere.
The challenges are very real – but we are in this together. Michelle reports, “We are learning how to support each other in different ways. ‘Community Meals’ have always been a weekly highlight for residents – a time to laugh together and share what’s happening in their lives. Instead of dining communally, our house parents now prepare and deliver those meals to each resident separately.” Finding safe ways to interact with each other – and foster community — has taken a new form. Houseparents and residents talk and play games while standing in their doorways, which can get loud with happy voices! It’s healing to have laughter and joy, which brings great relief to the inevitable times of isolation and loneliness.
To commemorate Mother’s Day, Hearts of Grace (our women’s leadership network), organized a special celebration for JV residents. The young women expressed great appreciation at the lovely catered meal from Wheaton College’s Bon Appetit, along with flowers and gifts to personally honor each mom.
OCM’s goal has always been to lead in the development of Christian community housing, serving both the transitional housing needs of vulnerable young people and the more permanent, supportive housing needs of young mothers. Now, more than ever in our history, we are thankful for all who make it possible to serve youth and young adults who are vulnerable.