4 local issues lingering from the pandemic

November 2021

As you would expect, the economic and social impact from the past 18 months lingers in our community. Our Palo Alto Community Fund (PACF) team frequently talks with people working in our local nonprofit organizations that provide support to many in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Palo Alto. We would like to highlight four issues that continue to be of particular concern:

1. Food Insecurity

One of our main focus areas in the past 18 months is to respond to the incredible surge in demand for food services and support. We have donated $473,000 to 10 organizations, which have done incredible work to help relieve hunger. Unfortunately demand for meals and groceries remains high, and has far from receded to pre-pandemic levels. For example, La Comida, which provides services for seniors, still provides 340 meals a day at 4 locations. Prior to the pandemic they provided 180 meals a day.

Loaves and Fishes reports a similar story.  Demand for their meals has tripled from 2,500 meals per day to 7,000 meals since March 2020 and has not lessened. In addition, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley reports an 80% increase in people served since the beginning of the pandemic

2. Rent Relief and Housing

The state eviction moratorium expired on September 30th, leaving many families and individuals in precarious housing situations. Nuestra Casa, based in East Palo Alto, tells us that some families were given just three days notice on October 1st. Nuestra Casa, CLSEPANorth Fair Oaks Community CenterSamaritan House and other community-based organizations are helping people navigate this confusing environment, including the laborious rent relief application process, as well as advocating for those who need legal representation in the midst of often illegal eviction practices. The catch is that many people fall between between the cracks because they are subtenants without master leases, are undocumented, or otherwise disqualify for rent relief or other services.  

Addressing the housing crisis is a key focus for PACF. Thanks to our donors, we provided $343,000 for rent relief during 2020 and invested an additional $150,000 in two strategic housing related initiatives. Last spring, PACF awarded $50,000 to United Hope Builders which is in the process of launching a modular housing factory in East Palo Alto and partners with nontraditional landowners to provide permanent housing at extremely low cost.  In October 2021, PACF committed $100,000 in support of LifeMoves’ Project Homekey Palo Alto application with the City of Palo Alto to build a transitional housing facility using a proven approach with wrap-around support services. This project would be made possible through a mix of state and philanthropic funding.

3. COVID-19 Vaccine Equity 

In April 2021, PACF was proud to award $50,000 to Ravenswood Family Health Network (RFHN). As of April 5th, only 28% of East Palo Alto residents, 16 and older, had received a COVID-19 vaccine compared to 82% of residents in nearby Atherton. To address this imbalance, RFHN ran barrier free COVID-19 vaccine clinics for the residents of the Belle Haven, East Palo Alto and North Fair Oaks communities. While the vaccines themselves were provided at no cost, RFHN received minimum government funding for administering the shots. The organization provided 245 clinics at their own sites, at the Facebook campus, and at schools and apartment complexes. As of October 3, 2021, RFHN had provided 6,420 patients with 11,355 COVID vaccines (includes 1st and 2nd doses), and currently all local communities are equally vaccinated at around 83% of residents over 12 years of age.

4. Youth Mental Health

The Children’s Health Council sadly informed us recently that the percentage of youth nationally that self-identify as having mental health issues has increased from 25% to 75% since the onset of COVID-19. This skyrocketing increase is no different right here.This Spring, we granted $30,000 to Children’s Health Council and $20,000 to EPACENTER, an East Palo Alto based youth arts organization, in support of youth mental health and well being efforts, in addition to $77,500 to other grantees also addressing this issue.

Now is the time to double down— not to let up.

Thank you to all our nonprofit partners for their hard work over the past 18 months, and to our donors, who stepped up to support them. The Palo Alto Community Fund is dedicated to uplifting the vulnerable, bringing educational opportunities to all, supporting families and improving the lives of everyone in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and we continue to raise and deploy funds for these purposes.

PACF is working to raise another $1 million this year, to help alleviate the issues  highlighted above, as well as to provide support to a wide range of local nonprofits which do vital work in our community.