Facing ‘Terrible Story’ of COVID-19 Impact, Neighborhood Group Gets to Work

The Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC) provides a wide range of social services and programming on Chicago’s Southwest Side, ranging from after-school programs to public benefits enrollment assistance. 

Much of that work is hands-on and done in person. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has had to shift the ways in which it serves the neighborhood. 

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“We provide a lot of clinical case management and clinical therapy, therapeutic services for students. So [we had] to look at what providing those services remotely would be, how to start training staff on that, how to make sure everyone is ready,” said Patrick Brosnan, BPNC’s executive director. 

In late March and early April, staff members also conducted an assessment of community residents’ needs, logging results from about 800 people. They found that more than half of respondents had either lost their jobs or had their hours reduced because of the pandemic.

“The data is bleak. It told a really terrible story, one that … is echoed, obviously, around the country, but it’s worth noting,” Brosnan said. 

To help offset some of the damage, BPNC started raising funds to provide cash payments to community members, with the goal of giving out $500 to around 500 people. So far, Brosnan says, they’ve distributed roughly $70,000. 

“It’s only going to be $500 which is hardly going to cover rent, but we’re hoping that people can use it for food, for rent, for something to get them through the month,” he said. 

BPNC is also supporting an order introduced to the City Council on Tuesday that would distribute payments to people currently ineligible for federal relief. Those populations include undocumented immigrants, homeless residents or those who don't have bank accounts.

The order asks the city’s budget director to redirect money from canceled city events and festivals toward assistance funds. So far, 10 alderman have signed on in support of the measure. 

“We need to get cash in our communities, because that’s going to go straight out the door into the stores into the shops and into paying rent,” Brosnan said. “In trying to mitigate the consequences of this recession, the city needs to play a role, like other major cities around the country have played a roll, like New York, LA, and other states like California.” 

Covid Across Chicago

How is the novel coronavirus impacting local businesses, residents and social service agencies across the city and region? And how are local leaders handling the crisis? We hit the streets to answer those questions and more in our ongoing reporting series, COVID-19 Across Chicago. See where we’ve been and what we’ve discovered in this overview. Listed is the official Chicago community area with the neighborhood in parenthesis where appropriate.

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