Low-income communities like those in the Normandy schools footprint in North St. Louis County have been impacted the most by COVID-19.
In addition to a disproportionately high concentration of COVID-19 cases, the pandemic has created a crisis here on multiple fronts. Because of this, we and our many partners and civic leaders have organized a comprehensive community response to address the many challenges municipalities and families are now facing.
In State of the Community: Responding to Widespread Challenges, Part I we highlighted our latest efforts in the areas of municipal government, health, and education. The following is an overview of what we are doing to address additional challenges within the community.
Food scarcity is a major issue right now in North St. Louis County. Many of the hardworking parents in the 24:1 Community have multiple jobs, with a high percentage in the services and hospitality industries. With those industries being the hardest hit, unemployment is estimated at 20%. The majority of these families have little savings or access to credit to weather this storm and are unable to buy food. Now with children home from school, there’s an even greater need for food at home.
Actions being taken:
- Thanks to the Community Impact Network, Operation Food Search and others, the gymnasium at Beyond Housing is now filled with thousands of boxes containing 80,000 meals to be distributed to the community. This is a massive undertaking that requires a significant amount of people and effort to distribute such a large amount of food. Drive-thru food distributions are now taking place every Saturday at our Pine Lawn headquarters and on Thursdays at our Pagedale Family Support Center facility.
- Additionally, support from Carrollton Bank, Emerson, NeighborWorks America, Norman J. Stupp Foundation, the Opus Foundation, PNC Bank, St. Louis Equity Fund, and individuals within the St. Louis region is allowing us to support families by distributing gift cards to the local grocery store and providing basic necessities.
- During the past several weeks, Beyond Housing’s Family Engagement Liaisons (FELs) have been working with the Normandy Schools Collaborative and Operation Food Search to distribute meals on weekdays to bus stops throughout the community. However, in an effort to limit exposure of COVID-19 to family and staff and because of the recent death of two bus drivers in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, the bus delivery of meals has been stopped. Meals are now being distributed directly at Normandy schools as well as three different apartment complexes in the community.
Roughly 83% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and this is especially true for low-income families. Many of the families in the 24:1 Community work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. Now with incomes lowered or non-existent, these families are especially vulnerable.
Before COVID-19, roughly 25% of the families in our 400 affordable rental units were behind in rent. In April, our overall rent collection was also down 25%. Though there is some overlap between these two figures, we expect the amount of unpaid rent to rise in the coming months. With children home from school, food and utility costs for these families have risen, which will make the need for rent and utility assistance that much greater.
For Beyond Housing, we are estimating a $350,000 setback due to lost rent over the next three months.
Based on our numbers, we estimate that roughly 50% of people within the Normandy schools footprint will soon be behind in their rent and mortgage payments due to COVID-19. Even though there is currently a moratorium on evictions, these rents will eventually become due. We have to recognize that these families will not be able to pay the balance of their back rent once the moratorium is lifted. This is why we must do everything we can now to ensure these families will be able to recover once this pandemic has ended.
Actions being taken:
- We are working with partners including Wells Fargo and the Community Impact Network to help with rent and utility assistance.
- Wells Fargo has generously committed $250,000 to help support our rent assistance and other efforts.
- While covering rent for families for the next few months will place a strain on our organization, we are able to do it. However, we understand that individual landlords in the community do not have the financial means to provide this assistance. We are looking at how we can support these landlords and their tenants through philanthropic dollars.
- Our Housing Resource Coordinators are staying in constant communication with the families in our 400 single-family affordable rental properties and the 95 seniors living in our two senior housing facilities to check on their well-being and needs.
As everyone knows, small businesses are being especially hit by COVID-19. Small businesses are an essential part of the continued growth and economic development of the 24:1 Community.
Beyond Housing and our 24:1 Small Business Network are working to ensure that they are able to survive this crisis.
Actions being taken:
- We are co-hosting webinars with North County, Inc., the University of Missouri, and the State of Missouri to help small businesses access SBA stimulus dollars.
- We are also identifying and sharing other resources with small businesses in the community.
- We are working with the future small business tenants in our new development being constructed on Pagedale Avenue to determine their needs and secure resources to help them survive until construction is completed.
- Beyond Housing has received $20,000 from JPMorgan Chase to help small businesses in the area stay afloat.
- We are continuing to pay our own small business employees at the 24:1 Café and the 24:1 Cinema.
Thank you for your interest in the communities and families that need our help right now. Stay safe and be well. We’ll keep you informed as the situation evolves in the weeks ahead.
Beyond Housing is a nationally recognized, place-based community development organization that serves the 24:1 Community—an area comprised of municipalities within the Normandy schools footprint. Our work brings civic leaders, targeted non-profits, corporations, and residents together to provide the infrastructure, support, and resources to improve lives, strengthen families, and create meaningful and lasting impact for communities and the greater St. Louis region for generations to come.