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MAKING A MARK: Norfolk group helps kids, families impacted by homelessness during pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused another crisis: housing. ForKids is offering solutions for low-income and homeless families, helping them get back on their feet.

NORFOLK, Va. — Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay 6 feet apart. Pandemic precautions that may not be possible for people with no place to live.

Thaler McCormick is CEO of ForKids, a nonprofit that has served families experiencing homelessness for more than 30 years. The group is responding to COVID-19 by assisting school-age children in new ways. 

"We've been working really hard since March 13th, trying to get any family that is on the street or in overcrowded conditions into hotels and then working really hard on prevention," said McCormick.

"Some kids got computers from their school systems, some kids did not. So, we immediately pushed out laptops for all of our children and some of the equipment they need to do their online learning," said McCormick. "And then, we started virtual tutoring probably about the second week after the state of emergency was called."  

Despite implementing new measures, ForKids hasn't slowed down— merging assets with Park Place Child Life Center to fund art education programming, hosting holiday drives and service projects, delivering meals and cleaning supplies, and working to hire more people to meet the growing demand for services. 

"We've been running at about 3,000 calls per week at the housing crisis hotline, which is about triple our normal volume," said McCormick. "So, our big concern is, 'How do we do more-- not less-- and how do we do that safely?'"

As people and families may experience even more vulnerability amid the crisis, ForKids is making every effort to let them know they're not alone. 

"The expression I keep using over the last few months is that we need to meet the moment, and the moment is one of a tremendous amount of human suffering now and uncertainty," said McCormick. "So, it's important that we stay steady and that we just move through this with our community and with our families.

ForKids is hosting its 9th annual storytelling contest and fundraiser called "Story Slam" on Saturday, November 14th at 7 p.m. This year, the event is virtual and the theme is 'Hindsight is 2020'. 

To learn more, visit https://www.forkids.org/. You can also check out the group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ForKidsVA.