Checking In with Queens Community House Amidst a Pandemic

First established in 1975, Queens Community House (QCH) is a multi-site, multi-service settlement house that serves the diverse neighborhoods of Queens. Its holistic approach addresses immediate needs as well as the barriers that may impede personal, family and community stability. Support Center’s intern Hua Lin Hsu, a Junior at Grinnell College and an International Relations major, interviewed Dennis Redmond, Chief Strategy Officer, about QCH’s response during the Covid-19 crisis.

Hua Lin: Queens was the epicenter of the Covid-19 crisis in March and April. What needs were you seeing in the communities you serve and how did QCH respond?

Dennis Redmond: The needs were varied, starting with the immediate health needs of individuals and sometimes entire families who were infected. As a result of the shutdown and loss of employment, many people lost the ability to pay bills. They also faced emotional and mental issues as a result of the stigma related to the economic challenges that they were facing.

QCH began using a specially designed tool to assess the health, well-being, and financial status of our participant households to get a sense of both their general situation and specific needs. We then referred individuals and families to one or more teams of QCH staff composed of housing specialists, case managers, counselors, immigration paralegals, and benefits enrollment experts. We will continue to employ this system going forward, with the flexibility to reduce and expand according to level of need.

QCH also pulled together a cash relief fund from different sources, and we gave out cash grants ranging from $200-$2000 to pay for medical costs, child care, and funeral expenses. So far, we have distributed over $200,000 in cash grants.

Hua Lin: What is the best way for people to help QCH or people in need in their own communities?

Dennis Redmond: People are recognizing the importance of community based services. Wherever you are, reach out to the organizations in your community and ask them what they need. Offer to help out with food deliveries and fundraising or volunteer at a food pantry. We saw an increase in mutual aid activities during Covid-19 that we hope will continue into the future.