All of us at Samaritan Ministry send our consoling love to those of you who have been impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic, and especially to those who may have lost loved ones,
The economic situation has disproportionately impacted the population we serve, and we remain committed to those in need, both current and potential future Next Step participants.
During this extraordinary time, our staff and volunteers have risen to the challenge of continuing to serve our participants in the safest and most effective manner possible. When the pandemic became a reality in mid-March, we pivoted quickly and began to engage our participants in creative, new ways while continuing to provide the same Next Step change-work and STRIVE training as we had previously.
To do that, we effectively turned our traditional participant interaction model on its head. Previously, we relied on in-person visits and encouraged our participants to take ownership for their own progress, including making and keeping appointments with caseworkers. During the pandemic, we reversed this, aggressively reaching out by phone, email and virtual means where possible, to engage participants proactively. We have had a strong positive response to this approach and have conducted more direct participant engagement sessions per month during May and June than prior to the pandemic.
For the STRIVE job readiness course, we launched our first virtual class in record time, with the first cohort starting in mid-April. We were recognized by the DC Government and STRIVE National network for being an early adopter of virtual STRIVE training. Since then we have continued to refine our approach and are conducting two concurrent STRIVE classes during each six-week session: one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.
Our offices remain closed for now, except for weekly front-porch outreach hours when participants can come to our Northwest DC, Southeast DC and Arlington offices to pick up mail, food, toiletries and other necessary items – including masks and hand sanitizer – all at a safe distance and with proper protective equipment. During these visits, participants can also have brief conversations with caseworkers at the appropriate distance.
While our current approach is working well, nothing replaces in-person interaction, and we need be more accessible to potential new participants. Looking ahead, we are carefully evaluating when it will be safe to gradually reopen and will be keeping this site updated as those plans are finalized.