The recommendation to wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds seems straightforward enough—unless you’re out on the street and don’t have ready access to soap and water.
That’s just one of the problems taken up by the Coronavirus Liaison Team, a group that’s been meeting every day by videoconference to discuss the best ways to address unmet needs in Victoria. The team includes Golden Crescent Community Organizations Active in Disaster, a coalition of local nonprofits that was instrumental in addressing needs after Hurricane Harvey, as well as business and education leaders.
The COVID-19 public health emergency is uncharted territory for nearly everyone involved, with a set of problems and unknown factors that set it apart from hurricanes and other more common emergencies. But Victoria is a community of people who help one another, and the collaboration started by groups like GCCOAD has provided an invaluable foundation in addressing the current crisis.
We’ve been awed by the outpouring of support from our community partners and from local residents who’ve expressed concern for their neighbors and want to know how they can help. By coordinating efforts between different groups, we have been able to help channel that community spirit to solve the many different problems Victoria is facing.
In the short time we’ve been operating, here are a few of the things this dedicated group has accomplished:
- Placed portable handwashing stations near the library, Queen City Park, Christ’s Kitchen and other places frequented by homeless people.
- Equipped the stations with flyers that feature information about COVID-19 and a list of phone numbers and resources.
- Got permission for downtown restaurants to reserve nearby parking spaces for pickup or delivery services and developed identifiable signage.
- Launched the COVID-19 Relief Fund in partnership with United Way and GCCOAD to raise funds and deploy resources to residents and community-based organizations impacted by the coronavirus. To date, more than $44,000 has been donated.
- Established links at www.victoriatxoem.org to enable citizens to volunteer and donate materials.
- Increased staffing at the 211 information hotline office and extended the days of operation to meet demand.
- Leveraged connections to help the UHV Small Business Development Center get the word out about applying for Small Business Administration disaster loans.
- A portable shower is now available at Restoration House Ministries (also advertised on the flyers at the handwashing stations) thanks to a partnership with Restoration House Ministries, Be Well Victoria, Habitat for Humanity, Caraway Plumbing, and United Way.
- The Victoria Chamber of Commerce created the “Together 4 Victoria” Facebook group for businesses to advertise their services and share updates, and we’ve been working to share that information with our network as well.
- The Victoria Economic Development Corporation (VEDC) distributed a survey to area businesses to determine the overall economic impact of COVID-19 in the region.
If you see a need in our community that you feel isn’t being addressed, call the COVID-19 hotline at 361-580-5796, and they’ll share your concern with the liaison team. You can also dial 211 to be connected with social services such as food and housing.
Mike Etienne, Ph.D., and Darrek Ferrell are assistant city managers for the City of Victoria.
Photo caption: The pictured portable handwashing station is set up at 700 Main Center. Others are located at the Victoria Public Library, DeLeon Plaza, City Hall, Christ’s Kitchen and Queen City Park.