Adapting to Virtual Organizing During the COVID-19 Pandemic: How Coalitions in New York City Have Responded

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on underserved neighborhoods in the United States, exacerbating existing issues with access to open and green spaces, healthcare, pharmacies, food, and critical equipment. To better understand the implications of this crisis, a panel of prominent designers, planners, and community and public agency leaders have come together to analyze what resilience means in the context of COVID-19.On Thursday, April 23rd, the Coalition for the Homeless and the Legal Aid Society presented testimony to the General Welfare Committee of the New York City Council regarding the introduction of legislation intended to prevent the further spread of the virus among homeless New Yorkers by providing all single adults in DHS collective shelters or on the street with a private hotel room. The virtual hearing included powerful testimony from several homeless New Yorkers who shared their harrowing first-hand experiences living in collective shelters and on the street during the pandemic. In addition to this legislation, Ashley Nelson, director of communications for the Coalition, has shared practical multimedia tools for a wide range of platforms to help members effectively launch new programs and promote promotional initiatives. The NYCETC Member Spotlight series has also been introduced to readers to showcase the variety of programs and employment services offered by Coalition members in all five boroughs and explore how programming has been adapted to meet current needs. In a webinar hosted by the Asia-Pacific and Middle East Coalition, staff and members discussed the complex relationship between public health and migration, past and present.

The Coalition also held a webinar with partners and members from Egypt, Gambia, Senegal, and the United States to discuss specific obstacles women face during the pandemic and suggest strategies to offer them support now and in the future. In consultation with Charles Cleland, PhD, a biostatistician at New York University, the Coalition for Homeless People calculated age-adjusted mortality rates among homeless New Yorkers in foster care. For homeless New Yorkers in foster care, there were 184 deaths per 100,000 people - 57 percent higher than the New York City rate. Still, given that the homeless refugee population tends to be much younger than the general population of New York City, an age-adjusted analysis indicates that there have been 16 more deaths among homeless New Yorkers housed than would have been expected based on the city's overall mortality rate. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted disparities in access to resources for underserved neighborhoods in cities across America. In response to this crisis, coalitions in New York City have adapted their programming to meet current needs through virtual organizing initiatives.

Through legislation, multimedia tools, webinars, and data analysis, these coalitions are working hard to ensure that all citizens have access to necessary resources during this difficult time.

Meghan Stearnes
Meghan Stearnes

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