Food is top need in Detroit neighborhoods with highest rates of COVID-19 | Michigan Radio
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Food is top need in Detroit neighborhoods with highest rates of COVID-19

Apr 24, 2020

Credit Brad Gowland | Michigan Radio

The single biggest need in the parts of Detroit that have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus is food. That's according to data available in a recently released COVID-19 Dashboard put together by Michigan 211.

Michigan 211, a subsidiary of the Michigan Association of United Ways, connects Michiganders free of charge with health and social service agencies and resources throughout the state. 

The service by far the most frequently requested in the ten Detroit ZIP codes with the highest rates of coronavirus is food pantries. That's followed by requests for information about disease and disability, assistance with utilities payments and rental payment assistance. 

Access to food is particularly challenging, according to Hassan Hammoud, executive director of Michigan 211.

"The trends are showing that people are easing off from looking for utility and rent assistance and looking more for COVID-19 information and food, and specifically delivery service," said Hammoud. "There's a lot of people that are stuck at home and need food. Especially living in Detroit, there's so many food deserts that access to food is not very easy if you're low income and stuck at home and a senior."

Hammoud attributes the leveling off of requests for utilities and rent assistance to some of Governor Whitmer's executive orders.

"She put a halt to all evictions and foreclosures as well as all utilities disconnections," Hammoud said. "So gas, electric, and water cannot be disconnected."

According to Hammoud, the dashboard shows that there is little unmet need in the four most frequently requested services in Detroit. But he acknowledged that the dashboard data reflect need as being met when a successful referral has been made to a relevant agency or service, not by confirmation that the need was actually met. He said the process later includes a followup, but the result of that is not included in the data.

Hammound is worried about what might be coming next, and said his organization is trying to prepare.

"What we're getting ready for is the second and third wave, and not even just of coronavirus infections. But what's going to happen once these executive orders are lifted and everybody has to pay their utilities and pay their rent and pay their mortgage if they haven't been?" said Hammoud. "The second wave is not necessarily going to be the health part of it, but the recovery. What is it going to look like? What are people going to do?"

According to Hammoud, the call volume at Michigan 211 is about about 30 percent more than it was before COVID-19 hit. He said initally, for about one month, it was up approximately 50 percent. He credits the state's hotline about the health aspects of COVID-19 for the 2-1-1 call volume not being even higher.