Portland, OR. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Because People Matter (BPM), has had to modify popular programs to meet new challenges. The nonprofit is now assembling and delivering lunches (seen above) instead of hosting weekly meals underneath the Burnside Bridge every Thursday night. The outreach effort, called Night Strike, was an opportunity for members of Portland’s homeless community to enjoy a hot meal and receive additional services such as a haircut and have their clothes/shoes replaced. The outreach effort brought together approximately 200 volunteers to provide food, clothing, toiletries, haircuts, and foot washing for over 300 guests. Now, such volunteering is not possible, because of social distancing requirements.
But this isn’t the end of the program, instead, BPM has implemented the Sunday afternoon walkabouts where they hand out lunches three times a week to COVID-sanctioned city camps. There are potentially from 120 to 180 people at a given time in these camps.
Lesley Snyder, co-founder, and administrator explains her decision to implement these Sunday walkabouts. “We waited for all summer long and are just now implementing walkabouts again on Sunday afternoons we feel like that’s a safer time of the day for most people, but we limit it to only about eight people so…this is dramatically reduced.”
The camps have had to lower their capacity due to COVID-19, needing to separate beds in order to be six feet apart. Some have also requested safe spaces for different groups of people including but not limited to individuals who identify as LGBTQ, trans, bi-racial, people of color.
Because People Matter is partnering with the city of Portland and is also collaborating with organizations like Medical Teams International. That nonprofit had previously attended Night Strike and provided medical and dental care to guests in the camps.
To raise funds for needed programs, Because People Matter hosted a virtual gala on September 16th. However, procuring items for the fundraiser was a struggle for the nonprofit as Snyder explains. “When COVID-19 hit we just couldn’t ask local vendors who were shutting their doors and laying people off to give us things for a fundraiser in six months we didn’t even know if it was going to happen in six months.”
COVID-19 has created new challenges for BPM and according to Snyder everyone at the nonprofit continues to work harder than ever they have especially in unusual circumstances.
Snyder is also hoping to recoup some of the funds that they weren’t able to raise this year because of COVID-19 through this virtual event. This will be different from previous virtual gala’s as they won’t be auctioning instead, they are using text to give, and although they’re asking for people to register for the event anybody is welcome to join at 7 pm.
From Because People Matter website: We exist to develop and sustain relational environments that create movement within groups and individuals to demonstrate love and generosity lived out in the world. Because People Matter creates relational environments that provide Relief, Mobilization, and Transformation.