Evanston Care Network easily connects residents in need to hundreds of resources.
Born out of the Covid-19 crisis, Evanston Care Network will easily connect residents in need to hundreds of free and low-cost services well into the future.
DE's Kemone Hendrick's talked to Audrey Thompson, community service manager with the City of Evanston and Rebecca Cacayuran, vice president of community investment with the Evanston Community Foundation about the Evanston Care Network, a new online hub where residents can access resources, support, and services in more than 100 languages, online 24/7.
The Network, which came together soon after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, is a collective initiative of the City of Evanston, Evanston 311, Evanston Public Library, AMITA Health Saint Francis Hospital Evanston, and Evanston Community Foundation.
Thompson, who works extensively with seniors and with youth and young adults, says that because of Covid-19, she has sat on many committees where members realized that though Evanston has many resources, often people don't know how to find them.
"We decided we needed a way for individuals to have a one place, a 'one-call-that’s-all' kind of resource," says Thompson. "It’s very important for people to be able to find resources. Not only City services, but the many others out there. This is something we always needed, but sometimes it takes a crisis to kick it up a notch and say, 'Hey, let’s go.'"
Residents can look to the Network for free or low-cost resources related to food, shelter, health care, employment, financial assistance, mental health support, childcare, job training, unemployment issues, and much more.
Thompson says that what's unique about Evanston Care Network is that works for people at different levels:
-- a person can access all kinds of services and programs by going online at evanstoncarenetwork.org; or
-- if they're not adept at navigating the internet, they can call 311, where operators are trained to find services the caller needs; or
-- if a person needs more in-depth assistance, someone to understand their very specific needs and direct them to appropriate resources, the 311 operator will connect them directly to a resource librarian at the Evanston Public Library who can take more time to guide them.
The pandemic made it urgent to create a coordinated point of entry for residents, and says, ECF's Rebecca Cacayuren, it came together quickly.
"So many amazing things can happen when we work together, and this is an example," she said. "Despite our best efforts, when we work independently, people fall through the cracks. When we work together, it’s so much more seamless."
The most recent addition to the collective is Amita Health, which provides Evanston residents with a 24/7 staffed crisis line they can call if they dealing with trauma or grief. They will talk to a professional counselor who is trained to use the care network to help the caller access services, where needed.
The network, Cacayuren explains, is a cross-sector partnership. City of Evanston programs and services are all individually listed, as are large and small nonprofit programs and community groups, and businesses such as C & W Market and Ice Cream Parlor, @Jennifer's Edibles, Inc, and Soul & Smoke that have risen to the Covid-19 crisis to serve people in need.
Organizations themselves are trained to manage their listing and keep it current, updating their capacity for service every week so that callers have the most up-to-date information.
"When there’s a crisis, how you come together is really a testimony to the kind of community you have, and I think we have a fabulous community," Cacayuren says. "And Evanston Care Network is proof of that."
So what happen when (finally) the current crisis is over? Will the Network continue?
"We know we have to continue this, we can’t stop," Thompson says.
Residents can access the Evanston Care Network at evanstoncarenetwork.org, or by calling 311.
Organizations that would like to be listed on the Network should contact the Evanston Public Library at 847-448-8630.
"We knew it needed to be as user-friendly as possible, that we needed to remove as many barriers as possible, and maintain confidentiality of our neighbors," Cacayuren says.