Resident Services: Distanced but not Disconnected

Posted by | Sally Erickson, Supportive Services Manager

Through two major crises this year, the COVID-19 pandemic and Oregon wildfires, our resident services coordinators (RSCs) have served as our residents’ lifelines to critical resources like food, hygiene supplies, and information. Perhaps more profoundly, however, our staff has helped residents—many of whom live alone and depend on their housing communities—maintain the essential human connection we all need to thrive.

When the wildfires raged across our state in September, Resident Services Coordinator Laura Butler received terrifying news—several residents at Molalla Gardens apartments were in an urgent evacuation zone, but they refused to leave. Fortunately, Laura knew all the Molalla Gardens residents well so they trusted her when she said, “Yes, you can take your cats with you,” or “Seriously, you must evacuate right now!” We all breathed a sigh of relief when the fire changed course about half a mile from the apartments. Within a few days the air was still smoky, but it was safe for our residents to return to their homes safe and sound.

Catholic Charities’ resident services coordinators (RSCs) provide on-site, relationship-centered services with the primary goal of helping our residents maintain their housing and thrive as members of their communities. They work in 10 of Catholic Charities’ 20 buildings across Oregon, supporting residents living in nearly 500 units in Clackamas and Multnomah Counties. Catholic Charities’ Resident Services program plans to expand the RSC role to other Catholic Charities properties in southern Oregon as well.

RSCs work with residents’ family members and community partners to provide neighborhood-based services. Those include academic enrichment programs for pre-school and school aged children, English language instruction, family mentors, citizenship assistance, health education and promotion, school liaisons, family advocacy, and more.

We also offer multiple educational programs to older adults and those with disabilities, including continuing self-care, living on a fixed income, and managing chronic illness. Seniors are also encouraged to participate in outside activities, volunteer as they are able. Offered through our community partners, health services help seniors remain in their homes for as long as they can.

Since March, RSCs have had to be nimble and quickly pivot services to meet resident needs. In the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, RSCs conducted wellness checks by calling every resident—staff made sure everyone had access to food and provided food boxes according to dietary and/or cultural preferences, they informed residents of rent and utility assistance programs and ensured people could recognize the symptoms of COVID-19.

RSCs have also continued to provide more hands-on support by coordinating monthly food pantries at their respective buildings, and they brought nursing students onsite to provide healthcare support. Our RSCs have helped dozens of residents to complete applications for assistance, schedule telehealth appointments, and arrange transportation to medical appointments.

In a time when many are largely disconnected from their usual support networks and resources, Catholic Charities’ talented RSCs create a sense of community through their friendly faces, helping hands, and generous hearts.

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