This is just part of the work being done to get the Baltimore Neighbors Network off the ground. As of Wednesday, most of it took place over the phone.
Volunteers connected with seniors who might be especially vulnerable right now as they self-isolate and deal with the impact of the coronavirus.
“People who are already struggling with trauma, with anxiety, with depression and have these conditions where they have to stay to themselves? It gets much much worse,” said Cohen.
“Just the isolation. I’m alone in my house and the social networks I’ve developed by going to senior centers aren’t available to me, and I’m just not getting that social contact that I’m used to getting,” said Amy Greensfelder, executive director of the Pro Bono Counseling Project.
The first phase of the program is being rolled out in Baltimore City districts one and eight.
The idea is peer-to-peer support. The 16 volunteers in the program so far come from all walks of life.
“Teachers, pastors, bar owners — just everyday Baltimoreans,” said Shantay Jackson, executive director of the Baltimore Community Mediation Center.
Jackson explained they’ve all been trained over the past couple weeks in what’s called inclusive listening.
“We hear that senior say, ‘You know, I’ve been in here for so long, I just want to break out of here,’ so it sounds like you’re feeling trapped and isolated and alone, is that right? And company and time with family is really something that’s important to you, is that right?” said Jackson.
The next step, if needed, is outreach from mental health ambassadors including, licensed mental health providers and social workers all pro bono.
Volunteers and those looking for support can sign up on the Baltimore Neighbors Network website.
A healing connection that organizers hope will stretch throughout the city
“We have this uncanny way of showing up for each other in our hardest times and it’s because we care, and I think this gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that we can be each other’s heroes,” said Jackson.
Besides the website organizers are also trying to make general calls to community members who might need help, but don’t have internet access.