With the first confirmed cases of COVID-19, the San Luis Valley prepares for the implications on everyday life.  Many local human service providers are having to change the way they carry out their work.

One such local nonprofit, La Puente, finds its staff on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis locally.  La Puente values the safety of the San Luis Valley community and understands that cooperation is how the community will get through this uncertain and difficult time. The non-profit’s Director of Community Education, Israel García-Humes, has stated:

“Beginning March 16, La Puente took measures to continue to meet the needs of our community while taking proactive community health precautions.  COVID 19 poses a risk to us all, but especially to the most vulnerable. Our community is strong, and we must help one another get through this.”

To help create “social distancing,” La Puente has made several changes to program operations while continuing to offer much-needed services.  At the end of this article, the Courier has noted some of the most significant implemented changes.

It has been difficult for La Puente staff to make these decisions, especially considering the population they serve is made up of those most vulnerable to COVID-19. This fact has motivated the organization to devise creative and safe ways to continue providing services, while also demonstrating staff and volunteers’ wholehearted devotion to the SLV community.

One of the biggest changes has been the elimination of the Shelter’s daily community meals. For years, the Shelter staff has cooked lunch and dinner, not just for Shelter guests, but for any hungry community member. On average, the Shelter serves around 60-70 community members per meal.

Thus, the elimination of this food source has been a drastic blow to many—especially considering the recent food and supply shortages.  In response to this, La Puente has rallied together the resources needed to provide at least one community meal from the Presbyterian Church until further notice. This is just one of the many ways La Puente is continuing to try and support the community.

La Puente’s Food Bank Network has also seen a sharp uptick in the need for their services.  In just one week, the Alamosa Food Bank saw 100 new families walk through their doors.  This is a 50% increase from the number of families served this time last year.  The other pantries in the SLV Food Bank Network similarly saw an increase in the demand for the services.  With supply chains being stretching, the SLV Food Bank Network is asking the community for support.  “We’ve seen a sharp increase in visitors, and we need donations of non-perishable foods (rice, beans, corn, green beans, oats, and fruits).  We are also in need of egg cartons, plastic bags, and cardboard boxes.,” said Food Bank Director, Lyndsey Williams.

La Puente is also reporting a demand from the families they serve for sanitizing products, toilet paper, and paper towels.  “With tight budgets and many stores low on product, the most vulnerable families are being forced to go without the necessities they need to stay safe.  They are coming to us to help,” said García-Humes.

Like many others, La Puente is also struggling to acquire the necessary personal protective equipment they need to keep their frontlines staff safe while providing these critical services to the community.

If community members are interested in supporting La Puente’s efforts or learning about changes in their services, you are encouraged to visit www.lapuentehome.org/strongertogether

See below for more details on essential program changes.

Emergency Shelter

  • Not accepting new guests until further notice
  • The shelter will no longer serve meals to the community, only to current Shelter guests
  • **Until further notice, daily from 12-12:45 p.m., Alamosa’s Presbyterian Church, on 330 San Juan Ave., will pass out free sack lunches.
  • Only La Puente staff allowed inside the facility during the day

Alamosa Food Bank

  • March Commodities (3/26, TEFAP) canceled
  • The facility closed to the public, only La Puente staff permitted inside
  • Instead, clients are asked to please wait in line, outside, for a pre-packaged box of food
  • In line, clients are encouraged to remain at least 6 ft. apart from others

Outreach Services

  • Office closed to the public, only La Puente staff permitted
  • Energy Assistance available only for electric and natural gas providers–no propane, firewood, or bulk fuel
  • Please call to see how Outreach can best assist during this time

Enterprises

  • All Rainbow’s End thrift stores (Alamosa, Monte Vista, Center) will be closed from March 17-31
  • Alamosa’s Milagros coffee shop will only be accepting “to-go” orders, from 7 a.m.—3 p.m.

Adelante

  • Office closed to the public, only La Puente staff permitted
  • Anyone requesting housing will need to mail in their housing application with all supporting documents and background check fees
  • Staff available via phone and email

For a complete description of program changes and to see how community members can still help, please visit www.lapuentehome.org/strongertogether

Overall, Garcia-Humes states, “As La Puente manages this crisis, we will continue to need your support, please consider donating online or helping us, with the purchase much-needed supplies.  The La Puente family of programs is dedicated to the health of our community and is proud to serve during these trying times.”