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Nonprofit organizations such as North County Lifeline and Operation HOPE serve thousands of individuals and families each year, many of whom are low-income households. Photo via Facebook
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Dedicated to helping others, community nonprofits need assistance

REGION — As the coronavirus disease pandemic continues for the country, local nonprofits that are trying to help those in need are struggling to make ends meet and are asking for help from the community.

One such organization is North County Lifeline, a nonprofit organization that helps people “in all sorts of trouble,” according to Executive Director Don Stump.

In response, the organization has set up an emergency fund to help people with housing and utility costs, groceries, household items, clothing, transportation and even professional counseling, case management and mental health care via video conferencing.

Community members can donate to the emergency fund at nclifeline.org/north-county-covid-support. While cash donations are preferred because it limits person-to-person contact, in-kind donations are being accepted as well, however, it is not accepting used items due to the quarantine.

“Our mission is to help people in whatever way is best for them,” Stump said.

For nearly 50 years, North County Lifeline has had several programs that handle different needs in the region. Its Youth Development program works to keep at-risk youth on a straight path and break the cycle of poverty and violence through prevention and intervention services.

The organization also has programs for abuse and domestic violence prevention and intervention, behavioral health support, housing and self-sufficiency, and human trafficking prevention and intervention.

Stump said the organization serves more than 5,000 individuals or families each year, many of whom are low income and are being hit particularly hard by the current economic crisis.

“Many of our clients are working in jobs where retail and restaurants and service industry all closing,” Stump said. “Right now these clients are already on the verge of homelessness and are concerned they’re not going to be able to make that April rent check or pay for food in the house.”

North County Lifeline has received many new referrals during this pandemic, as well as people asking for assistance. Because of the huge need for help, Stump said the organization has not been able to meet every request yet, and he believes it’s only just begun.

“Our biggest challenge right now is providing transitional housing for former foster kids,” Stump said.

North County Lifeline has a shelter in the region that is currently full. Stump said the organization is currently using what limited funds they have raised to put these kids into hotels using vouchers.

Another North County nonprofit organization, Operation HOPE in Vista, which acts as an emergency shelter for single women and families with children, is about to run out of funding completely, according to Board Secretary Bea Palmer.

When Palmer contacted The Coast News on March 20, she said the organization only had enough funding for two weeks. If Operation HOPE doesn’t get the funding it needs by April 4, the shelter will have to close.

“We’ve already stopped taking in new families who are homeless,” Palmer said.

The shelter is working on finding families already being housed temporarily, but if funding doesn’t come through, Palmer said that would be traumatic to the children staying there.

“They are already going through so much on top of being homeless,” she said.

Palmer explained one of the reasons funding is scarce is because the shelter is a dry campus, meaning no drugs or alcohol, which limits them from certain federal funding. It is also becoming more competitive to secure grants and private donations because of increased competition from other organizations.

Additionally, the shelter moved from a winter-only to a year-round shelter, but realistically the shelter wasn’t prepared for the long-term financial sustainability of that move, according to Palmer.

The shelter has also ramped up its programs to provide families with more resources and programming, all of which require more funds. Palmer said these programs are “critically important to lower recidivism or avoid families falling back into homelessness.”

The cost of feeding clients has also risen because of its loss of some meal providers due to changes in statewide charitable meals. The shelter has a mortgage payment that was deferred up to last year, and is currently working with local cities to help with this $200,000 debt.

Palmer also said the shelter did not strategically prepare for the cost of employee benefits.

“Caring for our employees who work under stressful and daily trauma is just as important to us as caring for our clients,” Palmer said.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has also required the shelter to shut down one of its most important community fundraisers, and some donors have been impacted and thus cannot contribute at this time as well.

Operation HOPE is asking the community for small donations at this time. Those who wish to donate are asked to sign up for the organization’s Dollar Donor Club and make small monthly contributions to keep the shelter open. One-time donations are also being accepted.

If the shelter closes, Palmer said, the community will lose 45 beds and its staff will be without jobs.

“My greatest fear is that shutting down the shelter and laying off our employees during this pandemic will be traumatic and detrimental to clients, staff, and our community,” Palmer said. “We will be contributing to homelessness rather than addressing this need.”

Palmer added that sending out families during this pandemic “is not an option.”

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