In March 2020, Ontario declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many cities across Canada, Hamilton went into lockdown. Intended to keep people safe, the lockdown also meant that many vulnerable Hamiltonians could no longer access needed services in traditional ways. HCF established the Pandemic Response Fund to support charities working on the frontlines to keep people safe, healthy and connected. These are just a few local programs and organizations we’ve supported over the past several months. Elizabeth Fry Society
In a crisis, the basics of life become a primary concern. When the pandemic hit Hamilton, Elizabeth Fry Society helped ease the worries of vulnerable women with comfort kits that included toiletries, clothing, food, hygiene products and baby essentials. The society serves criminalized women released from prison, homeless women and sex workers.
Islamic Relief Canada
Food security was a significant challenge when the pandemic hit, especially for populations that are already historically underserved. A grant from our Pandemic Response Fund supported the Barakah Box program, a joint venture with Mishka Social Services to provide culturally appropriate food boxes at the Hamilton Mountain Mosque. Clients include low-income families, newcomer and refugee families, seniors, and people who are differently-abled.
Restrictions on in-person gatherings made it difficult to keep connected. A grant from HCF helped L’Arche to maintain appropriate levels of care for their clients, adults with intellectual disabilities. The purchase of new laptops allowed staff to work remotely and funds were also used to purchase “workpods” – private space dividers including beds – to set up in empty office spaces while staff worked from home. The spaces could be used to quarantine staff and clients in the event of infection.
Refuge Centre for Newcomer Health
The pandemic has a disproportionate effect on different communities, one of which is newcomers. Language barriers intensify this inequity. With support from HCF, Refuge Centre for Newcomer Health provided 600 hours of translation services to help newcomers navigate key pandemic information related including how to access government supports.
Wellwood Resource Centre
For people already dealing with serious illnesses, the pandemic was yet another challenge, from isolation to vulnerability and anxiety about entering hospitals and doctor’s offices. A grant from HCF helped Wellwood Resource Centre to make a transition to virtual programming and increased online resources. This builds on the organization’s plan for a “virtual community of support” for clients unable to come to its physical offices.