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Community Hope Center Navigates The Pandemic


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Rev. Mary Lee Downey. Photo: Matthew Peddie. WMFE

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Businesses and non-profits alike are trying to navigate the healthcare crisis and stay afloat. But what impact does a pandemic – and a sharp recession- have on a non-profit that’s focused on affordable housing? 

Reverend Mary Lee Downey, CEO and founder of the Community Hope Center of Osceola County, says her organization has had to put an affordable housing project on hold. And when the pandemic struck, the non-profit suddenly found itself dealing with a surge in demand for food assistance. 

“We saw a lot of people who were really just worried about where their next meal was going to come from,” Downey told Intersection.

“Since the COVID. layoffs, we’ve given out about 78,000 pounds of food, and that’s over 3000 households.”

She said the core mission of the non-profit continues amid the pandemic.

“We have been very proud of our team who’s continued to meet with the people that we serve, continue to meet with their clients and be able to house in the midst of all this about 13 households who have been able to find sustainable housing. Even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we would obviously like that to be a higher number.”

Downey said the county already faces a shortage of affordable housing, with about 20 available units for every 100 extremely low income families.

She said the impact of the economic crisis brought about by the pandemic will add to that need.

“The outcomes and the just the ramifications of what that’s going to look like when it comes to how many units are available, how many people are actually evicted? It’s just kind of an unknown, but it seems terrifying.”


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Matthew Peddie

About Matthew Peddie

Host of WMFE's Intersection & Assistant News Director

A recent transplant to the Sunshine State, Matthew Peddie grew up in New Zealand and studied journalism at the University of Western Ontario. After graduating with an MA in Journalism he returned to Christchurch, working as a reporter for Radio Live and Radio New Zealand. He’s reported live from the scene of ... Read Full Bio »

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