As stressful and scary as the Covid-19 crisis are, the ways in which we’ve seen the Bay Area community unite in the past couple of weeks is heartwarming. We’ve heard countless stories of neighbors helping neighbors, people starting fundraisers for those who have lost their jobs, and a collective call to support local independent businesses.
But this pandemic is also making us all isolated (literally and emotionally). So while many of us want to help by doing something, it can also be hard to know exactly what to do when we’re stuck inside away from other humans. Turns out, there are many ways to help each other even when we’re at least six feet apart.
Now is the time to step up and help someone who needs it — here are five ways you can be a good neighbor through this crisis.
1. Check in with your neighbors
The fewer of us out right now, the better, especially for older people and those with compromised immune systems at greater risk from the virus. If you’re young, healthy, and able, running an errand for a neighbor or someone in your community while you’re out is a super-specific, helpful way to give back. Since you don’t want to knock on their door, start by leaving a note (like this “kindness postcard”) with your cell number. Instead of saying “if there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know” try being more direct so they’re more likely to take you up on your offer: “I’m going to Safeway tonight, can I pick up some groceries for you and drop them off?”
2. Start a neighborhood pod
If you’re up for taking it a step further than just reaching out next door, we suggest starting a neighborhood group to pool resources. A good first step is to start by simply making contact with people around you. Here is a form letter you can edit to make it work for you and distribute to your neighbors to get basic contact details and share both what they may need and how they are willing to help. You can also consider posting on Nextdoor. Another more formalized approach is to start a “neighborhood pod,” These are usually groups of five to 30 people, involve starting a What’s App group for people to communicate, and then working together to help each other during the crisis.
3. Join a mutual aid network
Bay Area residents are actively creating and managing mutual aid networks, designed to connect and help those in need right now. The ones we know about are:
- SF Bay Area: Crowdsourced aid for folks in the SF Bay Area affected by Covid-19 or the current situation and a nonjudgmental place to ask for help.
- South Bay Area: A coalition of community organizations coordinating food and supply drop-offs to people’s front doors during the Covid-19 quarantine, prioritizing folks who are sick, disabled, quarantined without pay, elderly, undocumented, queer, Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color — including those displaced from the South Bay in nearby areas.
- Oakland: Organized by the Disability Justice Culture Club to help those in need right now, especially disabled and/or elder Black, Brown, and people of color.
- Berkeley Mutual Aid Network: Started by community organizer Erica Etelson as a spreadsheet it’s now operating through an organized website to help those in need.
- If you want to create a community plan because your community is currently lacking one, don’t be afraid to be the point person and get the ball rolling.
4. Pay for canceled services that you had already booked
Covid-19 is devastating our local businesses; some won’t make it to the other side (see our ideas for shopping locally online and where to get takeout). Gig and hourly workers are also impacted. If you have regular appointments on the calendar — like with a nanny, babysitter, dog walker, spa or salon worker, fitness instructor, house cleaners, masseuses, etc. — and are one of the lucky ones to be financially stable right now, we strongly urge you to pay them even though you can’t get your services. If you have the means, you must take that responsibility seriously so they’re not left with no income.
5. Use your tech skills
We’re home to some of the smartest and most innovative people in the world — let’s spread this knowledge and these skills. If your local coffee shop is struggling to keep its doors open, help organize a marketing campaign to raise funds to keep it afloat. If your local cleaners don’t even have a website to alert customers what their plan is, reach out and see if you can easily build one. You can also offer to help people who could benefit from your tech skills, for example, helping someone file for unemployment, helping an older neighbor get set up with a Google Home or FaceTime to connect with loved ones.