From the desk of Paul Dragon, E.D. (11/21/2020)

Thinking About Community


“Hey brother”- That was the greeting I got from a young man while I was sitting in the lobby of our homeless shelter at the Holiday Inn. CVOEO has operated what has become the State’s largest homeless shelter since April when the pandemic hit. Since then, over 250 people have stayed at the shelter, and today as I write, there are 150 guests. I spend my Wednesdays at the shelter so I get to see people come and go.


The young man went on to tell me about a small shack he built near the lake and how he had been homeless for the last couple of years. The shack was torn down but he hopes that one day he will have another one like it with running water, heat and electricity. “Maybe CVOEO can help with that,” he says. “I could even build them for other people here,” he added with excitement. 


Another woman is sitting across the lobby crying softly. One of our staff comes up and asks her what is wrong and they go for a short walk. The staff are always checking in, comforting and asking if people need anything. An elderly man who has been homeless for years slowly crosses the lobby with a walker toward his room. Another comes in cursing to himself and then another middle age man nods in greeting and shows me his leg which is swollen around the calf.  A staff person tells him a nurse will be here tomorrow morning.


I have often wondered how we will get through this pandemic with so many people in need, including our staff members who each have their own lives and families to consider and protect. Today I realize, we are getting through with strength and deep compassion, and we are thriving as a community.

In March, the donations to our programs picked up with an outpouring of generosity. People we have never heard from before asked about our needs, wanted to volunteer, dropped off food and clothing.


Think about it: With help from our community, since March, our food shelves have provided more than 13,000 pre-packed boxes of food picked up on site by those in need, and over 2000 delivered. Our Weatherization teams pitched in to deliver food when they couldn’t work in people’s homes. Our Community Kitchen Academy staff and graduates mobilized to deliver three meals a day, seven days a week for the more than 400 homeless people temporarily housed in area hotels. 


With community support, our Financial Futures program implemented a New American Hotline, hosted by our Community Ambassadors, so New Americans can reach someone who speaks their own language to get help navigate the financial and health challenges of the pandemic.

Voices against Violence, our domestic and sexual violence program, saw a 12% increase in hotline calls and with community support, launched a chat line so folks can speak with an advocate through their website safely. 


Then there are our Statewide Housing and Head Start programs that leveraged technology to quickly adjust and to continue to advocate for people’s housing needs and educate young children and support their families.


It would be difficult to find any organization in the nonprofit or for-profit sector with so many programs that can adapt, deliver and excel during the hardest of times. We do this work for the family of three who were sleeping in their car until we housed them last week; we do this work for the community because you lift us up, and we do it for ourselves because in others we see our reflection.


We cannot do this work alone. It’s community that supports us, energizes us, and you willingly accept this historic challenge. In this we way we are whole and we are community.


CVOEO addresses fundamental issues of economic, social, environmental, and racial justice and works with people to achieve economic independence.


Serving more than 10,000 households annually,
impacting the lives of over 23,000 individuals