The Year of the Pandemic... On March 13, 2020 life as we knew it changed dramatically. Due to the uncontrolled spread of the novel Coronavirus strain, COVID-19, Massachusetts (and soon the whole country) would go into a state of lockdown. Schools closed, businesses shuttered and citizens were ordered to stay in their homes, except for emergencies. Many businesses developed work-from-home protocols, and soon schools were initiating remote learning plans. Our every day vocabulary expanded to include phrases such as “socialdistancing,” “new normal” and “zooming;” and the “essential worker” became the new American superhero. Toilet paper and cleaning supplies were in short supply, and most retailers began rationing. Gateway Cities were hit especially hard, Lawrence included. A dense population in a small urban setting greatly exacerbates the risk of transmission; and lowwage workers tend to fill jobs deemed “essential,” thereby increasing their risk of exposure. Like many non profits throughout the Commonwealth, Lawrence Prospera proved to be up to the challenges presented by this new normal. The young people we serve at the SISU Center, who are often reliant on their instincts and the streets for survival, were left without a safety net. The lack of affordable housing and parental support was only intensified by the crisis. They lacked steady income and access to the most basic of resources such as food and supplies for their children. Driven by the warnings of state and local health officials and amplified by the hysteria on social media, they were too afraid to leave their homes to seek support. With no where else to turn, they reached out to the Outreach and Case Management Teams at the SISU Center for guidance. At the Quintana Center a population forced into the shadows due to language barriers and immigration status was suddenly cut off. ESL classes, citizenship prep., naturalization services and immigrant legal assistance were all put on hold. On the federal level, the USCIS stopped conducting naturalization ceremonies for a time, and applications sat unprocessed creating backlogs. At the end of June, Lawrence was one of eight cities statewide that had a positive test rate which was significantly higher than the state average, even while testing of residents in those areas decreased. LAWRENCE PROSPERA FY’2019–2020 ANNUAL REPORT PAGE 8 “Long-standing inequities in the social determinants of health—such as, housing, economic instability, insurance status and work circumstances of patients and their family members have systematically placed social, racial and ethnic minority populations at higher risk for COVID-19 and more severe illness” Center for Disease Control (July 2020) Lawrence Prospera’s Nutritional Services Team put together weekly care packages for families struggling during the pandemic and the lockdown. The SISU Outreach Team delivered over 30 packages each week throughout Lawrence.

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