Growth in our Navigation Services – Providing Hope and Resources
Our Navigation Services – a program that goes beyond the need for food to help clients with the root causes of hunger. What started as an informal conversation between our home delivery drivers and clients has become a team with four dedicated staff in the last two years. Our amazing team of Community Health Workers connects families with resources for any number of issues, from assistance in applying for SNAP benefits or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, to connecting families with other nonprofits who can provide much needed resources like car seats and baby formula. This has been an incredibly important service for families that have been impacted by the pandemic or other personal emergencies.
Juanita’s Story – A Grandmother Helping her Widowed Son Raise his Family
Juanita is a 69-year-old retired grandmother living in Denver Harbor. Seven months ago, her daughter-in-law passed away from pre-eclampsia giving birth to her 5th child, a boy named Jasper. “It happened from one day to the next, it changed my whole life,” she said remembering dropping her daughter-in-law at the hospital during the pandemic.
Juanita has stepped in to help her son, Benjamin, who is now widowed with 5 young children. She makes daily visits to her son’s house, making the home cooked meals her grandchildren love and watching over them while her son works. The oldest, Jaxon, is 10 years old and has autism. Then there is hyper, 8-year-old Gavin, and 7-year-old Liliana who loves mermaids. Oliver is 2 years old, just a year and a half older than baby Jasper.
While caring for the kids brings great joy to her life, the struggle to provide household necessities is very real. Despite needing knee surgery, she spends much of her day finding resources and caring for the kids. Juanita describes herself as a responsible woman and mother, never needing outside help. She “went through a lot of things,” but she says they made her stronger. When she was introduced to Mildred, one of our client coordinators at the Denver Harbor pantry, she felt a wave of relief. “Mildred has always been so helpful since I met her.”
The family receives SNAP benefits, but it is not enough to cover the family’s needs. Juanita receives food through our pantry program and attends Food Fairs as needed. Additionally, our Navigator Shirley was able to help Juanita get diapers and baby formula after the family ran out. They receive WIC for baby Jasper, but they ran out of formula before their next appointment. Our Navigation team was also able to refer the family to Bo’s Place for grief counseling. “These children, especially the oldest, they tell me every day ‘I miss mom,’” Juanita explained with tears in her eyes. Shirley is now assisting the family to find school uniforms before the start of the school year.
Though times are tough, Juanita is strong for herself and her family. “I don’t have any shame what I’m going through. I love what God has given me, all the doors he’s opened for me in this journey.” Drying her tears and with hope in her voice, Juanita says she is grateful for the support she receives from Target Hunger. “Just the words, ‘do you need anything?’ it’s so wonderful to hear.”
This report we wanted to share a story of someone who has been helped by generous donors and pandemic efforts. As we shared in our last report, from March 2020 through June 2021, Target Hunger hosted COVID disaster distributions of food and supplies continuously and provided food to more than 107,000 individuals. Additionally, home delivery ramped up and became contactless to help some of the most vulnerable populations, like seniors. Joyce is just one of these people that was helped.
Joyce is a client in our grocery delivery program. She receives groceries delivered straight to her door by a delivery driver. She used to volunteer with Target Hunger, and is now grateful to be a client. When COVID hit, she didn't want to go out for groceries because it wasn't safe, having them delivered solves this issue. She said she is grateful to "get vegetables, so when I go to the store I don't have to worry about much. She says that "this has been a blessing, every little bit counts."
Thank you for helping Target Hunger do the work we do to feed those that need a little extra support!
Thank you for your generous support of Target Hunger in 2021. This past year continued to prove difficult for many in our Houston community, but with your support we remained able to provide food assistance to the vulnerable members of our community.
Last year, thanks to your support, Target Hunger was able to open two major community resources: the Shotwell Container Garden – a productive greenspace and educational tool; and a Mobile Food Pantry, a resource that will allow us to serve previously unreached areas of Houston. Your kindness this year allowed us to connect with community members to offer critical Navigation Services, an incredibly important service that ‘navigates’ low-income families to community resources.
Your generosity let us look beyond the challenges of pandemic life and focus our full effort and heart into serving nearly 16,600 unduplicated individuals for the Houston neighborhoods we serve.
Target Hunger has been an essential resource to the community for more than 30 years and we will continue to operate through any future challenges that come our way. While we partially transitioned to a hybrid format in July, we still haven't switched to our fully traditional service. We are looking forward to another great year of serving our Houston neighbors in need.
The neighborhoods Target Hunger serves faced severe hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic—higher infection and death rates and higher rates of job loss than more affluent parts of the city. From March 2020 to June 2021, Target Hunger’s operations were consolidated to contactless methods which included home delivery, drive-thru disaster distributions, and Navigation Services by phone. In July 2021, we began to roll-out more comprehensive programs and returned to our pantries.
As we continue to transition from emergency operations we are maintaining home delivery to an increased number of families, and are continuing to expand social service navigation support, training additional staff to become Community Health Workers. While these programs adapted well to our emergency focus, they also align with our pre-pandemic strategic vision for doing more to alleviate the long-term structural impact of intergenerational poverty on entire communities. We have also developed a more proactive approach to diversifying our staff so that it better reflects the communities we serve, as we saw first-hand how much more effective our outreach and programs are when clients and staff can connect over shared values and cultural touchpoints.
By including more families in home delivery through a partnership with DoorDash, we were able to make sure families whose work and childcare commitments prevented them from waiting in long lines still received food on a regular basis. Lines are shorter at our pantries, but they can still be difficult to reach given their fixed locations and hours of operation. Home delivery solves that challenge and is especially useful when we find we have a growing need in an area that does not have an easily accessed brick-and-mortar pantry location.
The significant economic and health setbacks the pandemic caused underscored how important social service navigation is to the long-term stability of the families we serve. We aim to accelerate the rate of training for staff, both in getting their CHW certification and in training them to use our constituent relationship management database as effectively as possible. Improving their skills will help them better serve clients over time, as they can set goals, create check-in reminders, and more closely monitor progress. Collecting better and more detailed data will also allow their teammates to take over a relationship with a client and continue to make progress without having to re-learn the client’s background, and help the team uncover trends in aggregate data that can drive improvements and changes in staff distribution across sites and programs, pantry locations, or other program elements.
Our Navigation Services work is about helping our clients, almost all of whom are Black or Hispanic, overcome structural and societal barriers that make them more likely to live in poverty. That is why Target Hunger has become more intentional about removing those barriers where they exist within our own organization. The value of having people from the communities we serve—whether former clients or people whose backgrounds would have qualified them to be clients—is readily apparent in the understanding and values they bring to the work.
We truly appreciate your support!
Over the past 15 months, the need for food assistance was at an all-time high and stringent safety protocols were necessary. During this time, Target Hunger provided home delivery services to more than 500 families per month and hosted 158 drive-thru disaster distribution events in east/northeast Houston. These services became a necessary resource for many Houstonians whose lives saw difficult change.
Because of you, nearly 40,000 food distributions were received by families from all over Houston!
As we return to more "normal" operations this July, Target Hunger's services remain a critical resource for our community. Target Hunger’s transition out of disaster mode is leading to a mix of old and new operating procedures as we move ahead in this ever-changing new normal. That said, our community suffers from food insecurity and our mission is very clear, to alleviate hunger and its root causes: in that regard, the path is straightforward, and Target Hunger will continue to deliver high quality food assistance to those in need.
Thank you as always for your continued support!
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