As people around the world continue to practice social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the seams of society are making themselves even more impossible to ignore. Schools have shut down, leaving many students without access to education, especially if they don’t have internet at home. Following statewide measures to close restaurants and bars to everything beyond delivery and takeout services, plenty of service workers are also out of jobs, and are facing a future without the tip-heavy wages they need to pay their bills. And others are trying to protect themselves as they show up to frontline jobs or jobs that don’t offer them time off or a work-from-home option.
While Congress has been busy deliberating the finer points of bills meant to help both the public and major businesses alike, healthcare professionals are already fighting for more tests, and plenty of people are fighting for their lives. State leaders have taken drastic actions, which might hurt communities as much as help encourage public hygiene. And across the internet, people are pitching in to help each other, sometimes raising and donating thousands of dollars to strangers in need.
Below, find 10 ways you can help people in your apartment building, community, and beyond.
CALL YOUR LAWMAKERS
Perhaps Ariana Grande said it best: Grab your phone, dial up your representative, and urge them to pass emergency legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find your Senator’s number here — the 5 Calls site even gives you an easy script to follow if you don’t know what to say.
Hi, my name is [ your name! ] and I'm a constituent from [ your state! ].
I'm calling to demand that the Senate pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and help support people directly affected by the pandemic now. Thank you for your time.
ASK YOUR NEIGHBORS IF THEY NEED HELP
It might be tempting to lock yourself in your apartment if you’re able to work from home and practice extreme social distancing, but not everyone around you is so lucky. Check to see if neighbors need help with their errands, be it groceries or other needs. (Remember: the novel coronavirus disproportionately affects older people and those with compromised immune systems. Some people’s chronic conditions aren’t visible, and they never owe you their status!) If you live in an apartment building and aren’t familiar with your fellow residents, Dr. Darien Sutton-Ramsey, an emergency physician in New York, recommends asking your superintendent or doorman if they know of anyone who might need help; other people have been posting notes in common areas and lobbies to let their neighbors know they’re around to help.
ORGANIZE A MUTUAL AID GROUP
If you find out that people in your area need more help than you alone can provide, you can start a mutual aid group. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also thinks you should: She set up a free how-to session with organizer Mariame Kaba to explain how aid groups work. The COVID-19 Mutual Aid website has information on aid groups in the United Kingdom, and also provides resources for those looking to establish their own.
DONATE TO FOOD BANKS
With schools shutting down across the country, the nearly 30 million kids who rely on the National School Lunch Program each year to eat may be left without food. Furthermore, as many Americans are out of work or unable to commute to their jobs, more and more people will turn to community food banks and food aid nonprofits, meaning those institutions will require additional supplies to provide for the uptick in consumers. And while canned food drives are a popular way to rally communities together around a common cause, the best way to support a food bank is actually financial. Consider giving your money to local organizations (like Citymeals in New York) as well as those that serve nationally, including Feeding America and No Kid Hungry.
SUPPORT THOSE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS
Approximately 500,000 Americans experience homelessness each night, and around 350,000 of those people rely on shelters or other transitional housing each night, per Newsweek. Places like the Ali Forney Center offer specialized help to LGBTQ+ youth, given that a disproportionate number experience homelessness at some point. People who are homeless are also at high risk for infection in general, and given that they are often unable to self-quarantine, face unique risks during the coronavirus spread. You can support a center near you financially, or look into donating supplies. “People should consult the web and social media pages of the providers in their area to see if they have a wish list,” Nan Roman, the president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, told Newsweek.
SUPPORT NATIVE COMMUNITIES
Organizers have begun raising funds for the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe, as the Indiginous peoples live in areas that have limited access to nutritious foods, known as food deserts. Tribal casinos have begun closing in order to comply with social distancing protocols, and several tribal nations have declared states of emergency. You can also call your senator to advocate for the Families First Act, which also promises that the federal government would allocate $64 million to the Indian Health Service in an effort to help Indigenous peoples who live on tribal lands and in urban communities alike.
ORDER TAKEOUT (YES, REALLY)
After numerous states and cities ordered all bars and restaurants shut down beyond takeout and delivery, many eateries are seeing a deadly dip in vital income. And while it’s best to steer clear of crowded spaces like these to limit face-to-face contact, there is currently no evidence of food being associated with COVID-19 transmission, according to both the CDC and FDA. Many delivery services are providing contactless delivery options to further lessen necessary human contact. So show some love to your trusted taco spot, and don’t forget to leave a fat tip!
SEND YOUR TIPS TO YOUR FAVES ANYWAY
In an effort to help the bars that have been forced to close, New York City has implemented an ordinance that people can order drinks to-go. If you’d rather DIY your beverage tonight, consider sending the staff at your favorite haunt the tips you might have spent in less drastic times. (Liquor brand Jameson donated $500,000 to the United States Bartenders Guild, if you’d like to follow suit and send your cash to a collective pool instead.) If you had a haircut booked this weekend and can spare parting with the tip you would have given them even without their services, that would go a long way, too.
IF YOU HIRE A HOUSEKEEPER, BABYSITTER, OR DOGWALKER, KEEP PAYING THEM
Chances are good you’re stuck at home, and may not feel like it makes sense to hire someone for their services. But their bills aren’t going to stop just because you cancel your appointment. If you don’t hire a housekeeper but want to help anyway, the National Domestic Workers Alliance has set up a coronavirus care fund to help the millions of domestic workers around the country, many of whom do not have access to sick days or other healthcare benefits.
CALL YOUR LOVED ONES
Schedule a group video hangout with your friends in lieu of meeting up for brunch. Ring your parents and grandparents and ask them about their days. FaceTime your best friend while you do the same workout and turn your solo session into a group class. Social distancing doesn’t mean you need to shut yourself off from the world, and reaching out to your nearest and dearest will help keep you both sane through this new normal. Think of it this way: You can be #AloneTogether.
You can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Not everyone has the option to stay at home, but if you can, you should! Social distancing is the new normal, and we’re here to help.