As the COVID-19 pandemic continues various support systems have been implemented to help people make it through this crisis. Even with the numerous grants and other programs, no system is perfect and some in need have been left without support.
Good Samaritan Ministries in Helena has been there to catch people who fell through the cracks in the system and help them avoid crisis, including those they employ.
Marvin Colman manages Our Place, a drop-in center overseen by Good Samaritan that provides a place for people dealing with mental health challenges, homelessness or other struggles find support.
The pandemic caused Colman and his family to need the same type of support.
“When the shutdown first happened, there was just so much need in the community we couldn’t close. So we laid off our employees, I stayed working 25 to 30 hours a week,” said Colman.
Colman spent the beginning of the pandemic mainly delivering food and groceries to people who couldn’t pick it up themselves.
By working that much, although reduced, Colman didn’t qualify for unemployment benefits. He’s also a student right now, which means he didn’t qualify for the federal stimulus money.
“Then the avalanche started where I just couldn’t pay everything each month, and eventually got to the point where I was so far behind I had to make the decision of do I keep the power on or do I pay the rent,” explained Colman.
Colman helps hundreds of people each week with finding housing, job services, peer support rides and food delivery. Yet he himself still struggled with admitting he needed help.
“It’s unfortunately part of our culture and so that’s where I found myself, even though I am a hard worker,” Colman said. “It was a little humbling at first, but then I thought ‘this happened, it was beyond your control, go ask!’ which was the hardest thing to do.”
Good Samaritan’s assistance ministries were able to help Colman with his rent, and began getting out of the ever deepening hole he had found himself in.
“Once I got my rent paid I could focus on all of the other bills coming in,” Colman said. “It gave me a month to get back on my feet. Then we opened, my hours went back to normal and I’m slowly digging out.”
Colman’s story is similar to the hundreds of families Good Samaritan helps every week. Most found themselves in mounting debt due to unforeseen circumstances.
Executive Director Theresa Ortega says the COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for the organization, but one they’re adapting to.
“Even though our Thrift Store had closed, our Assistance Ministry never stopped,” said Ortega. “We provided services online to get people connected with different agencies to arrange for a place to stay or what their needs were.”
Good Samaritan can assist people with childcare, vehicle repair, dental, household items, toiletries and more.
The nonprofit was able to meet those needs during the pandemic thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program from SBA, and a $10,000 COVID Relief grant from the State of Montana.
The parable of the Good Samaritan tells the story of a man giving aid to someone in need, and expecting nothing in return.
Ortega says they will continue to live up to their namesake and help all in need they can, even long after the pandemic has passed.
“We like to follow our services to serve the most in need throughout our community, the whole aspect of that. Those usually are the people that are ill, or downtrodden or homeless and we’ll keep going no matter what,” said Ortega.
The Good Samaritan Thrift Store is back up to their regular hours,and accepting donation on Tuesdays, Tuesdays and Saturdays.
More information about the services Good Samaritan Ministries provides, and how to support their mission can be found here.
Emergency housing assistance is also avalible through the State COVID Relief Fund. More information and how to apply can be found here.