Three weeks after Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department issued a countywide stay at home order, local nonprofits are facing an unprecedented number of requests.
“The number of walk ups…they just lost a job or they’re in desperate need for something to keep them satisfied [with] food, we have to staff somebody full-time in the back just to keep answering and helping those folks,” said Tom Hamilton, Director of Development and Communications at Sunnyvale Community Services (SCS). “None of us have seen anything like this.”
Hamilton says SCS fulfills approximately 100 financial requests in a normal month. However, just a few weeks after the stay at home order was put into place, SCS had already approved 150 applicants and had a queue of more than 200 others.
“I’m worried,” said Hamilton. “There’s 150 people that we’ve already committed to financial help, that’s going to be close to $315,000 if $2,100 on average per family. That’s just the people we’ve vetted. What about those that are coming that we don’t even know about? It’s way over our monthly budget of what we expect.”
In addition to helping a larger portion of the community, SCS has had to alter the way it operates. Volunteers are no longer allowed at the facility because of social distancing rules.
The agency has also shut its doors to the outside public. While the facility is open, the doors are locked and any applicants asking for help are communicated with through a speaker. Applications are passed back and forth through a mail slot or filled out over the phone.
Hamilton says he’s seeing folks from all walks of life apply.
“A group of guys said, ‘We just got laid off; it’s our last day of work.’ We immediately gave them food. That happened for 16 other people that walked in and needed food,” said Hamilton. “I think it’s folks who have steady, hourly work. Name your job.”
He says the City of Sunnyvale has helped by donating money and city employees to help answer phones and process applications, but the unprecedented need is making it tough. Plus, SCS has stopped taking any donations but monetary ones.
“We’ve had to stop taking any kind of food that people want to offer us or any other clothing or other in-kind types of things because we’re just trying to move those touch situations,” said Hamilton. “We just can’t get people exposed inadvertently for either side. We’re just saying, all those things are wonderful and we appreciate them, but right now we just don’t have the mechanisms or want to expose people inadvertently.”
“Our big push is please, any money or food gift cards, we’ll gladly use,” said Hamilton. “Really, it comes down to any financial help and/or food gift cards. Whether it’s Target or Chipotle or Safeway. Those we will literally put to use immediately.”
Donations can be made via the SCS website at svcommunityservices.org.