TTLEBORO, Mass. — A sense of normalcy has become a thing of the past for everyone across the Diocese of Fall River during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is a group for whom normalcy rarely, if ever exists. Those who are homeless, or don’t know where the next meal is coming from, or whose utilities have been or will be shut off, always live in fear, anxiety and doubt.
And with the avalanche of changes brought about by the need for caution amid the pandemic, the doubts and fears for these people have increased many fold.
But area St. Vincent de Paul societies are doing everything they can to continue to reach out those in need in the Fall River Diocese.
Irene Frechette, vice president for the New England Region of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, encompassing all of New England and New York, told The Anchor, “Our national society has canceled all national conferences and meetings until further notice. They have made Connex Lines available to all leaders in each of the eight regions to use as a means of communication with their membership.”
Frechette also said, “All of our Thrift Shops are closed. Our kitchens are serving take out only and our food pantries are giving curb-side service. All home visits have been suspended.
“We are being cautious as to providing rental assistance until we know how landlords react and until the Federal Government begins distributing the supplemental checks to working folks.”
Jean Desrosiers works with the Taunton area SVdP. She told The Anchor that the “St. Vincent de Paul food pantry has been changed from Wednesday night free choice to appointment with a pre-packed package. We service Berkley, Dighton, Easton, Raynham and Taunton. Individuals who are coming for the first time need to be prepared to answer our client information sheet. They need to bring a picture ID and proof of residence in our catchment area. This means two forms of ID, a license does not count as proof of residence.
“To make an appointment, call 508-823-6676. You will be given a day and time to come pick up food. When you arrive at the center, please knock on the door and wait for us to answer. Do not come into the building. Our volunteers are mostly over 65 and we are trying to keep them healthy so we can keep working.”
Mary Dwyer from the Attleboro area SVdP told The Anchor, “Our SVdP District Council of Attleboro is actively preparing to meet today’s new challenges. We expect a sharp increase in requests for basic needs, including food, housing, heat, utilities, clothing, etc., as our neighbors in need suffer layoffs, job loss or insufficient income to support their families.
“We have been forced to cancel our upcoming Family Walk event, which is our only annual fundraiser supporting rental assistance throughout the District Council’s Six communities. Because we have an even greater need for these funds, we are converting this event into a Virtual Family Walk. We are actively soliciting funding from corporate sponsorships, preparing an online ‘walk’ experience through our Business and Family Sponsor trail signs to culminate this event. Business sponsors and donors can contribute online: http://svdpattleboro.org/FamilyWalk/FamilyWalk.html.
“We are trying to get the word out to our community residents to contact their Society of St. Vincent de Paul hotlines at their local churches for assistance. These hotline numbers are listed online: http://svdpattleboro.org/conferences.html.
“Our local pantries are continuing to provide food assistance to those we serve. Each pantry is using creative solutions to modify their food distribution methods in accordance with public health requirements. Pantries are listed on our Conferences web page listed above.
“We have temporarily replaced our traditional home visits with ‘phone visits’ to communicate with those who need assistance, then follow up on these requests through remote communication methods.
“Our Prison Reentry Program continues their active ministry assisting formerly incarcerated men and women, offering outreach mostly by email and telephone. They can be reached at Reentry@svdpattleboro.org or 508-455-2054.
“We are an all-volunteer District Council. Our Vincentian volunteers are actively using remote communication and assistance distribution methods to continue responding to all inquiries for our help during these unprecedented difficult circumstances.”
Area contacts: Fall River Diocesan Council: Steve Meaney (firstname.lastname@example.org); Fall River District: Roger Poisson (email@example.com); Gerald Morrissette (firstname.lastname@example.org); New Bedford District: Lynne Kuczewski (email@example.com); Taunton District: Jean Desrosiers (firstname.lastname@example.org); Cape and the Islands District: Mary Ellen (email@example.com).