Taking care of her ill husband and mother while raising a 12-year-old daughter, Christie Crecelius found herself in panic mode when she lost a part-time job as a housekeeper during the COVID-19 pandemic and saw her hours reduced at In-Home Supportive Services.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” said the 52-year-old Chula Vista resident. “The next thing I know, Home Start contacts me and says they’ll pay part of my rent directly to the landlord. It was an absolute lifesaver.”

Backed by a $100,000 grant from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund at The San Diego Foundation, Home Start has been reaching out to hundreds of clients facing myriad challenges since the pandemic began, connecting more than 300 families to CalFresh for food assistance, providing rental assistance to 45 households, finding shelter for 82 individuals experiencing homelessness, and delivering 1,000 weekly meals, thanks to additional support from the Lucky Duck Foundation. That’s on top of hundreds of grocery store gift cards, diaper distributions to scores of families, and assisting more than 100 people with their transportation needs.

All the efforts are central to the San Diego-based nonprofit’s core mission of engaging in community-based, collaborative programs to reach children and families at risk in order to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Home Start last year served nearly 20,000 residents, primarily in San Diego and the East County, with home- and center-based services provided free of charge or on a sliding scale. COVID-19, however, means community engagement occurs almost exclusively through phone calls and Zoom sessions.

“Since COVID, like every other nonprofit organization, we really had to pivot in providing services that are so vital to keeping our children safe,” said Home Start Executive Director Laura Tancredi-Baese. “What this grant does is help people who are facing even greater crises than they were before.

“A lot of the people we work with are Uber drivers, dishwashers, hotel service workers, waiters, people who are in a business where they can’t work from home and have been devasted by the impacts of this pandemic,” Tancredi-Baese continued. “Imagine you were working in a restaurant, your spouse was working at a hair salon, you both lost your job, you’re struggling to feed your kids, let alone pay your utility bill or the rent. The stress can be overwhelming. Children and families need our help now more than ever.”

The COVID-19 Community Response Fund has been a vital resource for nonprofits such as Home Start since the pandemic began overwhelming the region. Since it was first launched in March, the Community Response Fund has raised and distributed more than $50 million to scores of area nonprofits serving thousands of residents struggling to recover.

“I don’t know where I would be without the help I’ve received,” Crecelius said. “We’d probably be out on the streets or in a shelter somewhere. We are very grateful for the ongoing support.”

You can help support low-income and unemployed workers like Christie and their families by donating today.