When Gladys Vega of the Chelsea Collaborative delivers food to the many families that have fallen hard in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she has witnessed that people are quickly running out of food.
“Our food needs are so immediate right now,” Vega said. “I think many people are going to bed with little food because they remain afraid of government. At night, I think about who may be out there that is in need. They may be elderly people in an apartment all alone without food or toilet paper. There are families I have been able to help that were stretching one day of food over three days. They had no phone, it was disconnected and no money for food.”
Since last week, the Collaborative has been fielding calls from the community, particularly those in the immigrant community that were very vulnerable after the economic collapse. Many had low-paying jobs, no savings, maybe were undocumented or just lost good jobs that evaporated in a few days’ time.
Some have needed help in signing up for unemployment, and the Collaborative’s Yessenia Alfaro has been leading a charge to get members signed up remotely.
Meanwhile, Vega commandeered a family member’s SUV and put it to work gathering groceries and delivering them all over Chelsea where families are living on the edge.
“We’re bringing bags of food and hygiene items,” she said. “No one at any of my stops asked for donations of cash. You see the need for food because no one is asking for cash donations. People are saying they need food or paper products. No one is asking for money for the laundromat. It’s hit them hard enough though that they’re starting to ask for help to pay the rent and to eat. This could be a dire situation that only becomes worse.”
She said she has also visited with some of the food pantries, such as at St. Luke’s, and their shelves are nearly empty.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the City Council approved an emergency measure to provide funding to organizations that are getting food and delivering it to those in need.
That, he said, is a major undertaking and he has also heard that those in the city without a safety net – which is many in Chelsea – have been running out of food.
Vega said she also worries for the future of Chelsea, which she fears will take a huge hit financially.
“I think the City is going to suffer a lot after the epidemic,” she said. “After such prosperity and seeing so many good things come to the city and to organizations, I’m afraid we’re going to take a hit financially. I hope not, but I’m afraid.”