FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM AUGUST 20, 2020 • THE QUEENS COURIER 17
oped letters & comments
Keeping essential services
essentially human in
the age of coronavirus
BY SHAREN I. DUKE
Gregory Meade takes the subway. It’s not because he’s fearless. It’s
because he’s on a mission. He wears a mask and carries several more
along with other personal protective equipment. Th e bags he totes
are fi lled with pantry provisions and food vouchers. His frequent
subway rides will include stops in every borough.
Gregory is delivering hope and health to people in need and helping
us provide essential services to New York City’s most vulnerable
population — folks who are suff ering from a range of chronic
illnesses, substance use, poverty and homelessness, who now, under
the cloud of COVID-19, are too sick, frightened, isolated or otherwise
unable to reach necessary services.
Now, even as the coronavirus releases its grip on our city, our nonprofi
t, Alliance for Positive Change and countless others like us are
adapting to a new world where we must fi nd ways to pivot from
what has essentially been a face-to-face operation to one that goes
beyond a face mask. Th e pandemic has forced us to consider how an
agency that’s in the business of social services and public health can
provide assistance when all of the rules for helping no longer apply.
Gregory, one of our legion of trained volunteers and peer advocates,
is part of the solution. “Some of these people are afraid to
go outside,” the 23-year-old says. “But I check on them, and make
sure they are OK. It humbles me to help out at a time like this.” It’s
not that this Bed-Stuy resident believes he’s invincible; it’s quite the
opposite. Six years ago, he arrived on our doorstep, seeking help.
Alliance off ered him in-person support and a welcoming community.
Gregory and others like him have literally been a lifeline for many
of our clients. And while these personalized deliveries are powerful,
the model is not a one-size-fi ts-all solution for us or the community
For many, simply having a place to go, a professional to speak
with, or a peer to off er counsel is critical to their progress. Grabbing
a snack or having a meal was an ever-present option for all those
who came to our six locations for services, workshops and training,
or to get medications from our pharmacy access center.
But with several of our doors still closed or only partially open,
we needed a revised strategy for providing sustenance and addressing
the increasingly severe issue of food insecurity. We quickly supplemented
the delivery service that Gregory was a part of with graband
go meals available at three of our centers. We secured support
to distribute hundreds of meals each week. And for those hundreds
of people who were homebound or unable to get to us, we began
mailing or delivering food gift cards twice a month, along with
masks, recipes and resources.
Th roughout the pandemic, our goal has been to provide continuity
of service, and to do it with the kindness and humanity that is our
trademark. Home deliveries certainly checked the boxes, but they
were not a solution to reach everyone. We wondered how a food gift
card arriving in the mail might be received. We quickly learned that
this innovative approach brought with it the dignity of not having
to stand in a food line and the freedom to get the food that you not
only need but that nourishes you, or is part of your culture.
Denise Rambert, a recipient of the gift cards whose diet recommends
certain foods, was overjoyed. “It was the only way I was able
to get the veggies that I need to keep healthy,” she says.
From the beginning, we thought about the countless interactions
between staff , peers and the people we serve and the essentially
“social” part of our social services. We could not always rely on
Zoom or other technology because they just were not easily or readily
available to many clients. But we could connect via telephone.
And we are.
Staff and volunteers make thousands of calls each month to provide
information and off er support, and we encourage all New
Yorkers to support organizations like Alliance that are on the frontlines.
Homebound, Denise says these eff orts lift her spirits. “It’s the
help I needed at the right time.”
Sharen I. Duke is the founding executive director and CEO of
Alliance for Positive Change (www.alliance.nyc).
DOING OUR PART
New York City has a new initiative
through the Department
of Environmental Protection to
alleviate fl ooding by installing
bioswales, aka rain gardens. In
the interim, they should look
into ways to prevent homeowners
from removing the grass strip
into cement or other non-permeable
At present, homeowners
or contractors must fi le a
permit with the Department
of Transportation (DOT) for
repairing their sidewalks.
Unfortunately, there is no provision
in the current city regulations
to prevent homeowners
from cementing that grassy strip.
Th e regulations must change.
I propose that when DOT
gives a permit for sidewalk repair
that it only permits homeowners
to replace the concrete that
is already there. When we have
more areas that are cemented,
this overtaxes our sewers and
contributes to street fl ooding.
I understand that as people
get older, it may become diffi
cult to maintain these areas.
Th e homeowners may be too
frail or disabled; therefore, they
are unable to properly maintain
the grassy strip. If homeowners
wish to remove the grassy strip,
they should be given a permit to
replace it with permeable brick
We should all do our part
in preventing street fl ooding. It
takes more than City Hall to
make New York City great. It
takes us all.
Marie Adam-Ovide, Laurelton
STAKES HAVE NEVER
Th e importance of the 2020
Census cannot be overstated.
As outlined in the Constitution,
a complete count of “every person
living in the newly created
United States of America” is
instrumental to ensure that our
communities — including those
hit hardest by COVID-19 — get
the funding and representation
Yet time and time again, federal
government offi cials appear
to be doing everything they
can to confuse respondents and
obstruct this year’s count.
Many changes have been made
to ensure the census can be conducted
safely while the pandemic
rages on. But last week’s news
that the door-knocking portion
of the census will be cut
short by a month threatens all
the progress we have made so
far to ensure every person can be
counted this year.
Th e door-knocking phase is an
invaluable outreach tool to reach
women and girls, many of whom
fall into categories that are historically
hard to count, including
immigrants, children under
5 years old, those experiencing
homelessness, those without reliable
internet access, and those
who speak languages other than
We need Congress to act
immediately to extend the statutory
deadlines for reporting
apportionment and redistricting
data from the 2020 Census.
Here in New York, where millions
of dollars in funding and
multiple congressional seats are
on the line, the stakes could not
Carole Wacey is the president
& CEO of Women Creating
Change, a nonprofi t focused on
advancing civic engagement for
women in underserved communities.
HARVEY PARK // PHOTO SUBMITTED BY AUDREY WOLFE
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