June 3, 2020 — The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of many area residents. While there are signs that the economy will recover and many who have lost jobs, or have been surviving on reduced wages, might soon be fully employed, hundreds of area residents have been left unemployed and unable to pay for basic necessities.
The federal government has passed multiple financial support packages, but not all of the monies allocated have been distributed to those most in need. And while money approved and allocated for distribution to those effected is forthcoming, primarily through the CARE Act, there is often a time lag or other issues that impact those that need help from receiving it in a timely manner.
Siuslaw Outreach Services (SOS) is the area’s frontline responder for individuals and families in crisis, serving the area in that capacity since 1986. During that time, the social services organization has established itself as an effective advocate for the challenged and disadvantaged in the local community.
SOS has recently received COVID related financial support for area residents, and according to Executive Director Bob Teter, the nonprofit is prepared to provide financial assistance during this extremely difficult time.
“In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, SOS has once again stepped up. While many human services agencies closed their doors and sent workers home in March, SOS remained vigilant in continuing to aid,” Teter said.
In the past months, SOS has continued to provide motel vouchers for the most vulnerable in the unhoused population, and provided rent assistance so those who lost income did not get behind on payments
“Then, through grants provided by Lane County, Oregon Department of Justice, The Ford Family Foundation, Allstate Foundation, United Way, FEMA, and donations from local businesses, groups and individuals, SOS has raised over $120,000 to help toward rent and utilities,” Teter said.
To access this COVID-19 Assistance Fund, people need to contact SOS staff by calling 541-997-2816 and setting up an appointment. Applicants may also stop by the SOS office on 12th Street between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Applicants will be required to provide documentation that their loss of income occurred after March 1, 2020, and it was directly related to the current pandemic, as well as supporting documents related to their specific need. Other eligibility requirements stipulate household income, after March 1, must be not greater than 50 percent of the Area Mean Income and applicants must work and or reside in western Lane County. Also, bills have to be in a past due status.
Another area that concerns Teter is related to housing and the number of local residents who might not be able to pay rent in the near future.
Executive orders from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has put in place a number of restrictions on property owners and housing rental agencies which limit evictions and foreclosures during these initial stages of the pandemic — but many of those protections are limited.
“Although the governor has put a moratorium on evictions until the end of June and Lane County Courts will not allow eviction hearing until late July, this does not mean people can live rent free,” Teter noted. “They have until the end of the calendar year to pay back any arrears so long as they stay current beginning July 1. For many, their rent is 80 to 90 percent of their regular take home pay. Those individuals cannot afford to pay above their normal rent rate.
“Also, landlords and utility companies have bills of their own to pay. It is important for the economy to keep bills paid up. We hope to help with that as best we can.”
In addition, SOS has additional support resources available to assist those in need of support.
“SOS has other funds to assist those in need. In addition to rent and utility assistance, SOS provides advocacy for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and stalking, a 24/7 crisis line, peer support group meetings, self-sufficiency classes and basic need vouchers,” Teter said. “In the past three months, SOS has received a significant increase of requests for advocacy services. Nearly triple for this same time last year.”
He acknowledged and wanted to reach out to both women and men who might find themselves in emotionally charged situations, which may lead to instances of increased domestic violence.
“The stress the pandemic has placed on households has resulted in instances of domestic violence for some. Although statistics show women are predominately victimized by abusive acts, domestic violence does not discriminate. For many, the pandemic has created a sense of doubt and uncertainty and a feeling the world is out of control,” Teter said. “In some cases, individuals have committed acts of domestic violence in an attempt to gain control. Thankfully, SOS has the resources to provide advocacy and connection to other resources to help those abused reach a point of safety.”
For more information on the services offered by SOS or to volunteer or provide financial support, call 541-997-2816 or visit SOS at 1576 West 12th St. in Florence. Visit online at florencesos.org.