29 May Support group finds fewer people in need of transportation …
The need for community services for seniors and those living with disabilities has fallen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The East Parry Sound Community Support Services Program has had fewer people in need of transportation services for groceries, errands, or medical appointments.
Leslie Price, coordinator for East Parry Sound Community Support Services Program, says community involvement may be the reason for that decrease.
“I think there are a lot of people just kind of helping their neighbours . . . offering to pick up groceries. A lot of people are off work right now, so they obviously have a lot more time on their hands to help people,” said Price.
Price says the transportation program has decreased to 30 people a week from 100.
Another factor is a reduced number of medical appointments during COVID-19, but Price is expecting them to level out with more of a demand for errands and grocery store runs with new clients.
The Meals on Wheels program has the same number of recipients as before COVID-19, which surprised Price.
“When this all happened, you think you know what might happen. We envision people wanting more meals. That wasn’t the case,” said Price. “In speaking with other community service agencies – what I noticed anyway – smaller areas are experiencing the same thing we did where their numbers are pretty much the same.”
Price says other community service groups across Ontario have found the need in smaller communities is decreasing, but the demand is higher and harder to manage in large cities.
She says the tight-knit community element may play a factor in the lack of high demand.
East Parry Sound Community Support Services Program Services helps more than 1,000 people from Callander to Novar with various programs. Every year, they drive more than a million kilometers, driving clients to appointments as far as Ottawa or Toronto.
While the need for transportation services has declined, Price says that doesn’t mean their services have stopped.
“If you don’t have a neighbour or family member who can help you, we can certainly do that.”
She says they are taking necessary precautions with pre-screening questions and personal protective equipment and are following guidelines such as dropping off meals outside the doors instead of inside homes.
Price says it can be difficult in cases like the transportation service to socially distance the volunteers from the person.
She says they have continued to reach out to past clients to check in with them.
“Really the only challenges we see is just kind of being concerned about people who are socially isolated, and there’s only so much we can do about that,” she says. “Sometimes that volunteer might be the only person that person saw that day, but they’re not getting that same one-on-one interaction. But obviously, we want to make sure people are staying out of people’s homes and not bringing anything into them.”
Price says her biggest concern is people are not getting the help they need, especially during COVID-19.
“Despite our best effort with social media or just word of mouth, we’re still afraid that there might be people out there who do require transportation or do require meals and just think that we’re not doing it because we’re shut down.”
As for the time being, Price hopes people reach out to whoever will help them through COVID-19.
“I’m definitely proud of the fact that we live in places where people care about even perfect strangers.”
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Mackenzie Casalino is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with The North Bay Nugget.
The Local Journalism Initiative is paid for by the government of Canada.