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Mid-City CAN: Providing Critical Help During a Pandemic

In a community where nearly one in four residents live in poverty and unemployment is one-third higher than the region’s, Mid-City CAN was critical in helping thousands of those living in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s important, at a critical time, to respond appropriately and immediately in meeting the community’s needs,” said Mid-City CAN Development Director Chloe Petcharaporn. “There were residents who were really struggling. Our message was, ‘Hey, we’re here for you.’ The San Diego Foundation stepped up. It was inspiring.”

Mid-City CAN’s $75,000 grant from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund helped the nonprofit fund operations, call some 60,000 residents to ensure they were safe and aware of available resources, provide stipends for those challenged with paying their bills, and more.

The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund has raised more than $66 million to support San Diegans in need and granted almost all funds, including 281 grants to more than 200 nonprofit partners providing the region’s most vulnerable communities with computers and internet access, childcare, food and housing, medical support, workforce training and more. Despite the unprecedented outpouring of support, San Diego area nonprofits have identified millions more in need.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the social ills and inequities of our society and in San Diego,” said Mid-City CAN Executive Director Diana Ross. “From disparate infection rates, high job loss, lack of healthcare access, homelessness, to most notably the injustices of over-policing in communities, communities of color have been most impacted by the virus. Underpinning this, however, is the opportunity to build resiliency, support our communities’ health by ensuring access to resources, and to keep democracy strong.”

A partner in The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative, Mid-City CAN has been advocating for San Diego’s most vulnerable neighborhoods since 1989. This was the first time, however, that the nonprofit tackled disaster relief. With help from The San Diego Foundation, Mid-City CAN in July of 2020 launched the COVID-19 Family Resiliency Fund for families of essential frontline workers at a higher risk of suffering an acute crisis because of the pandemic’s impacts.

The Resiliency Fund was initiated by Mid-City CAN staff who wanted to donate their stimulus checks to support community members. To date, more than $49,000 has been granted.

“The process to apply was very easy and it was accessible,” said Denisse, a student at Hoover High school. “My parents had to take out a loan to purchase a computer for me during the beginning of the pandemic. We were able to use funds to pay off my computer loan – which was needed for school. It also provided emotional relief. It’s very important for community members to have access to funds like this in a time of need.”

Another recipient added, “The pandemic has hit small businesses incredibly hard and it made the basic challenges of paying for healthcare, childcare and so on even more challenging. These funds were able to help me make rent until I was able to find work.”

Mid-City CAN also advocated for maintaining public transportation for those in neighborhoods with no alternatives. “Frontline workers during the pandemic suddenly had no access or very limited access to public transportation,” Ross said. “Our advocacy was successful in preserving some of the routes and some of the frequency, which was vital for people to get to work, to get their COVID tests, to get to their doctor visits and to get their vaccinations.”

Especially impactful was Mid-City CAN staff making 120,000 phone calls and connecting with approximately 60,000 residents last summer.

“Having organizations like Mid-City CAN around was like a lifeline for community members like myself,” said one resident. “Their commitment to keeping the lines of communication open throughout this entire experience has provided great comfort to me and my family.”

Mid-City CAN’s Diana Ross reflected:

“I just want to say, ‘thank you’ to everyone who stepped up during the pandemic, but I also want to remind everyone that the recovery has just begun.”

Learn more about the impact of the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund today.

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