City of Newburgh – Face Of Courage
By Edie Johnson
Newburgh Rises Above COVID Crisis
If a City could have a middle name, Newburgh’s would be “Resilience”. Just when a Crisis like the one we are going through might have made business owners give up, the poor stretched beyond their limits, and those who are “troubled” fall through the cracks, once again the City of Newburgh came together. From the description of the last two months by Newburgh Ministries Executive Director, Colin Jarvis, it was a community that rose to the occasion like never before. It was as if a ship of angels landed to a community who was saying “OK, we could use some help”. Next thing you knew the City offered 3 square meals for 50 plus residents twice a week, a relative of a former resident called Newburgh Ministries from Arizona wanting to offer a night full of Pizza for Ministries clients. And believe it or not a man from Sullivan County offered almost 5,000 pounds of fresh frozen duck meat. In fact, it was more than they could store in their freezers, so they shared it with RECAP to distribute further.We hear much of community, civic, non-profit and governmental organizations that fail because of lack of coordination. In this instance it was the opposite. The Ministries site on Johnston Street has clients they have been helping for 30 years. But what do you do when a contagious disease hits a group of poor with a long list of preexisting conditions (COPD, High Blood Pressure HIV, and drug abuse and other vulnerabilities). Jarvis said “We had to reshape and retool the entire delivery system.”
When they collaborated with a dozen or so other support groups (RECAP, Orange County, Social Services, Office of the Aging, Honor, SNAP, Legal Aid to name a few), a minor miracle happened. The system worked. Most people not only got the temporary housing they needed, whether at the shelters, or hotels/motels made available, they got food and needed masks and gloves either curbside or hand delivered. Town of Newburgh Councilman, Scott Manley set up dispensing sites throughout the City and provided 5,000 masks. Senator James Skoufis brought more. Assemblyman Kevindaryan Lujan spent day after day making food deliveries and chatting with those families. And every chance for a contact was an opportunity to start a conversation, show caring , “How ‘ya doin?”. Jarvis said Newburgh Ministries became a hub of a much larger system able to offer greater opportunities, like following up on medical issues, coordinating with RECAP and the County for future job opportunities. Lots of COVID-19 testing was done. This Friday Cornerstone is setting up tents adjacent to the Ministries and will test for antibodies. Mask contributions, he said “CAME OUT OF THE WOODWORK”. The Housing Resource Center stepped in to clear people for home assistance.
Jarvis summed up the situation, “With the degree of need it’s not a quick fix, and as things are changing so quickly, you have to be able to twist on a dime But the street homeless situation is still acute. Ministries can shelter some, but there are still probably more than a hundred “street homeless”. Fortunately Mother Cabrini has offered a grant to extend the sheltering season and the bitter cold weather has come to an end. The smiles the many enjoying today’s sunshine and warm weather in the parks show a community that is confident that things will continue to get better.