Story & photos by Alli Cripe
Tempe Community Action Agency, one of the area’s most active social-service providers, says COVID-19 has not only increased its need for aid but for the likelihood of hiring new workers. The organization offers emergency support ranging from food and shelter to long-term assistance for people and families.
“We operate Tempe’s largest food pantry and we are continuing to respond to urgent needs in the community,” said TCAA Executive Director Deborah Arteaga, “especially for people who are worried about their most basic needs like food and housing.”
TCAA has seen a rising demand for emergency food boxes, say officials. In response, they’ve increased the number of boxes they supply to schools for distribution to students and families after school campuses were shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Residents have also been advised to stay inside their homes or to practice social distancing by keeping within 6 feet of one another.
“We offer home-delivered meals to seniors and adults with disabilities who register with TCAA,” said Arteaga, who recommended eligible Tempe citizens check out the TCAA site where two numbers are listed.
One of those provides information about drive-thru meals at the Tempe Multi-Generational Center; the other assists requests for home-delivered meals. TCAA has also taken other measures which are listed on its website.
The agency works to provide shelter for the homeless and has switched to phone-based case management to continue to assist people enrolled in their Health Start Program, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, and the Financial Opportunity Center.
The spread of COVID-19 in America and Maricopa County has already left a dent in the economy for local businesses, which has led to unexpected job losses for many in Tempe and elsewhere. TCAA offers support for low-income households, such as funds for utility and rent assistance. A link is provided on the site.
“Sometimes helping to pay the utility bill is another way that households can use their income on other needs like rent or groceries,” Arteaga said.
After the completion of an application on their site, TCAA will look at income over the last 30 days to determine eligibility. It’s generally a low-income household but, Arteaga added, if a household loses that income, other factors are taken into consideration.
“We also look at the nature of the crisis situation (and) what’s causing the need for the emergency… assistance.”
However, while TCAA fights to assist Tempe citizens, it will also need community support to keep going, Arteaga noted.
“We’ll be experiencing increased cost when we have to purchase more supplies and bring on temporary staff to help with the increased demand,” she said.
Arteaga asks the community for financial support, as well as for items listed on the agency’s site and its Amazon wish list. Promotion through social media also is needed to get the word out. As for volunteers, she said they’re covered.
“Thankfully the community response has been tremendous and we’re receiving an abundance of requests from folks who want to volunteer,” she said.
“We’re very grateful for that.”