Among the many organizations whose work has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic this week are Chicago’s social service providers. Many are adapting to continue serving their communities, albeit from a distance.
“This has been a real challenge for us,” said Angie Lobo, executive director of the Indo-American Center in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood. “So much of our work is focused on face-to-face interaction … we provide language access for people, we help them with documents, we help them understand what it is, we do translation non-stop … it’s hard over the phone to do a lot of that stuff.”
Located on California Avenue just south of Devon, the Indo-American Center provides a variety of services to the greater West Ridge community, like after-school programs, translation services and meals for seniors.
The organization also offers legal and immigration aid for new immigrants.
But under the threat of COVID-19 and the ensuing safety measures, Lobo says the center is now dealing with ongoing confusion about immigration laws and deadlines.
“We also have people inside the country whose green cards are expiring and they need to renew them and they can’t. We still have people who are nervous [that] they’ve overstayed their visas because they can’t get their visas renewed. The longer things are shut down, the more that those delays are really going to impact more people,” Lobo said.
Overall, Lobo says her organization is dramatically expanding its outreach to communities they work with – many of whom don’t typically use online services.
“We’re actually focusing on calling everyone that we have ever worked with, and everyone that we can find numbers for in our databases and our old paper files, wherever, just to check in on them and say, ‘How are you doing? What do you need?’ That’s our big shift this week,” she said.