April 8, 2020 - Local government and several organizations working with the most vulnerable populations in the community today highlighted resources that are available to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and Allen County Commissioners Rich Beck, Therese Brown, and Nelson Peters were joined by representatives from the Allen County Trustees Association, United Way of Allen County, YWCA Northeast Indiana, Brightpoint, Just Neighbors Interfaith Homeless Network, and The Rescue Mission.

The Allen County Trustees Association assists in emergency situations like COVID-19 with basic necessities. There are guidelines that must be followed that coincide with Indiana state statute. Basic necessities include, housing, utilities, and food. Individuals must apply to the township they reside in. If unsure of which township, visit http://wayeo.egis.39dn.com/. Most townships have an application process. Right now, the process is slower because staff members are working from home, so please be patient. They are trying their hardest to make sure residents are safe and getting the assistance they qualify for. Residents are encouraged to apply for any government programs that they qualify for as this may speed up the process. Visit https://fssabenefits.in.gov/bp/#/. Applying to the township can also get residents referrals to other places.

Additional suggestions from the Allen County Trustees Association:
-Contact your landlord or office manager if you are not able to pay your rent or pay it by the due date.  Keep in contact with your landlord as to your situation.

-Always call before you go anywhere to make sure the office/store is open.

-When the federal stimulus check does arrive, be sure to take care of basic necessities. Pay your rent/mortgage or pay ahead. Pay your utilities. Get food that will last.

-Check with food banks to make sure they are open. If you have school-aged children, be sure you are taking advantage of any food distribution the school systems are offering. 

Local shelters and non-profits are working around the clock to continue, and even increase, their services. Many local non-profits that help meet basic needs are under financial stress and have set up COVID-19 donation funds that can be found on their websites. United Way of Allen County has established a COVID-19 response fund and is working with area funders and non-profits to determine the most immediate and pressing needs; 100 percent of the funds will be distributed to local non-profits that meet those pressing needs. In addition, 211 through the United Way is available for the public to call to get connected to local resources. 

In the event that it is needed, area shelter leaders are working collaboratively with the Allen County Department of Health to identify a regional quarantine center for the homeless population. The shelters, such as The Rescue Mission, YWCA domestic violence shelter, and Just Neighbors Interfaith Homeless Network, are still serving individuals experiencing homelessness and finding increases in the need for services. They have changed their daily operations due to the virus; for example, The Rescue Mission is now offering bag lunches for anyone in need instead of the daily hot meals. Brightpoint has closed its offices and begun offering services online, such as utility assistance, health insurance, and child care assistance. Leaders anticipate the need for these services will increase dramatically over the next few months.

The City of Fort Wayne’s Community Development Division’s Office of Housing & Neighborhood Services is helping to coordinate services among local shelters. The office is immediately putting approximately $35,000 of federal funding to use to cover COVID-related needs, including the purchase of personal protective equipment and sanitation stations for several shelters and outreach teams. As other federal funding becomes available, the Community Development Division will work with the Allen County Department of Health and area non-profits and funders to coordinate efforts to meet the basic needs of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“We’re fortunate to have social service agencies committed to assisting individuals and families in need of help, support, and hope,” said Mayor Henry. “As a city and county, we care about one another, and it’s showing. COVID-19 is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. We’re all in this together to make a meaningful difference and follow the guidelines to help beat the virus.”

“We all understand that these are times of great consequence for our citizens. But the human service sector -- whether in mental health, housing, developmental disabilities, child welfare, nutrition, aging, homeless services and domestic violence programs -- is stepping forward as it always has to serve as the safety net for all those in Allen County and Fort Wayne,” said the Allen County Board of Commissioners.

With more cases of COVID-19 being confirmed in Allen County, leaders continue to stress the importance of practicing social distancing, washing hands thoroughly and regularly, and limiting activities in group settings. The public is reminded to be vigilant and use good judgment as a result of Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s ongoing stay-at-home order.

The public is encouraged to visit www.cityoffortwayne.org/covid-19 where a community resource page has been created and is updated regularly with information about COVID-19, local government responses, and other organizations that serve the public and how collectively there is help available to those who may need assistance. The site also includes a list of possible ways area residents can help. A comprehensive listing of non-profits assisting with basic needs is also on the website.