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AntFarm shifts services to provide COVID-19 relief posted on 01/01/2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic began its rapid spread throughout Oregon, Two Foxes Singing (Nunpa), the executive director of AntFarm Youth Services in Sandy, knew the non-profit he had founded would need to provide greater support to the Mount Hood communities.

“AntFarm has pivoted,” he said. “We’ve expanded our services to reach our community with what they need.”

The nonprofit was established in 1999 to provide youth and family services in Sandy with a focus on youth programs that create a “healthy, purposeful, and compassionate community.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, AntFarm immediately applied for grants to support community members. “I saw so many youth and families struggling,” Nunpa said.

AntFarm is now taking a three-prong approach to providing pandemic relief in the Mount Hood region. The nonprofit has expanded services to offer rent assistance to Clackamas County residents facing financial hardships from the economic disruptions, provide economic and moral support for quarantined individuals, and assist Oregon’s tribal communities and communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

AntFarm was also contracted to distribute federal relief funds from the CARES act for rent relief in Clackamas County. The nonprofit has successfully distributed $1.5 million in rental assistance since March and has assisted approximately 300 to 400 families.

The grant covered all of Clackamas County, but AntFarm was able to offer much of the aid to families in Sandy, Estacada and other Mount Hood communities.

“By the nature of us being here, our people are getting more support,” Nunpa said.

The nonprofit is waiting to determine how additional federal rent assistance will be implemented in 2021.

AntFarm received a community engagement grant from the Oregon Health Authority to provide “wraparound” support to individuals in documented isolation and quarantine periods due to COVID-19. The support includes assistance accessing health care, grocery shopping, housing support, utilities and telecommunication support, and help connecting to community resources.

“(The wraparound support) helps people continue to live,” Nunpa said.

The funding typically covers 14 days of quarantine and is limited to 30 days for someone who has COVID-19 and still has symptoms. Nunpa added AntFarm has been receiving approximately five referrals a day for people in need of assistance due to quarantine.

AntFarm was also awarded a $150,000 health equity grant from OHA to assist tribal communities and communities of color, who have experienced higher rates of illness, exposure and loss of business during the pandemic.

“The relationships with these groups… and their knowledge of the needs of their specific communities are the keys to breaking the hold of structural and systemic racism and oppression,” said Leann Johnson, director of OHA’s equity and inclusion division in a recent press release.

AntFarm has been working with the Latinx population in the region to address health disparity, economic disruptions, food insecurity and housing, and other areas of need.

“We hired from and of the community,” Nunpa said. “Our new hires have done an excellent job reaching into the community and doing triage.”

Three of AntFarm’s recent hires are bilingual and have been working extensively with the Latinx population.

The new year brings new uncertainties regarding funding for COVID-19 relief programs.

“I’ve been impressed working with the Oregon Health Authority and how quickly they have been able to secure the funding and implement the programs,” Nunpa said.

In the meantime, the workers at AntFarm will continue to abide by the mantra they have adopted over the course of the pandemic, “You’ve just got to keep showing up.”

More information about AntFarm Youth Services COVID-19 relief programs is available by contacting the organization at covidrelief@AntFarmyouthservices.com.

For more information on AntFarm, including it's bakery in Sandy, visit www.antfarmyouthservices.com.

By Ben Simpson/MT





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