Rexburg’s free social services in the area are taking a hit from COVID-19, while the demand for those services has spiked.
Businesses are struggling, BYU-Idaho students have been quarantined in their rooms for weeks and families have kids at home instead of school.
There have been many changes due to the pandemic and some changes have been hard for some. What happens when someone loses their paycheck and struggles to feed their family? What happens to those who have an abusive spouse and are stuck at home with them? These people would normally go to one of the free social welfare programs in the area.
There are two major social services in Rexburg, the Family Crisis Center and the Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership. Each provides assistance to those in need.
The Family Crisis Center closed its physical doors during the initial lockdown but as of May 4, its doors are again open to the public. While locked down, the center maintained other operations a domestic abuse support line, which has seen a massive increase in domestic violence calls.
“Quarterly, we would have 35 clients call in,” said Daniel Flores, the public awareness coordinator for the Family Crisis Center. “We had 26 in a single month.”
Those people calling in currently have nowhere to go because of the pandemic.
“A phone call may be their only way to get help,” Flores said.
Rexburg isn’t the only place that struggles with domestic violence. Around the country police stations are seeing an increase in domestic violence crimes. On Twitter, the Seattle Police Department posted that they had seen a 21 percent increase in domestic violence reports.
Just south of Idaho, Utah County commissioner, Nathan Ivie posted online that they have seen an increase of 75 percent in increased calls.
The Family Crisis Center continues to reach out to individuals who struggle either with domestic abuse or who need food. However, the current situation has forced a limit on the number of volunteers at a given time.
Donations are also limited for safety reasons. All volunteers and clients at the center must wear a face mask and maintain social distancing to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
“While our physical office may be closed, we have advocates who will do whatever we can to help those in need,” Flores said. “They can FaceTime, email or call us.”
For more information about the Family Crisis Center, visit its website.
Based in Idaho Falls, the Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership also operates in Rexburg. They have multiple services, but its most used for its food bank.
“The demand for food has increased between 15 to 20 percent,” said Jazmin Sanchez-Ayala, the Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership outreach coordinator. “Those donations are very needed.”
With fewer paychecks to bring home, resident’s pantries become barren.
Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership has been doing what it can to fill the gap until everyone goes back to work. It currently takes donations and follows the necessary precautions when collecting them. The needs for each community are different but they ask for donors to call before bringing donations to ensure that they are safe.
“Please don’t go without food,” Sanchez-Ayala said. “Talk to us, give us a call. The most difficult issue that we’ve had is helping them to be patient. All of these sudden changes have left people nervous and anxious.”
For more information about the Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership, visit its website.
One thing that both of their organizations said is, “We’re are still open.”