“The new coronavirus is a universal threat, but not a universal equalizer,” reads a recent report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Here in the U.S., more organizations are mobilizing resources to help those who are most vulnerable. The nonprofit coalition Energy Efficiency For All is one organization that is stepping up to the task with a set of guidelines for local policymakers that address challenges such as affordable housing and uninterrupted access to water and electricity during this economic crash.
Tragically, we’ll keep seeing some of the more vulnerable communities succumb to COVID-19, as reports of coronavirus cases from Portland, Oregon, to Boston demonstrate how orders to “shelter in place” aren’t exactly possible for everyone.
Another population at high risk is migrant workers, who have already been subjected to raids by ICE agents wearing N95 masks that logic dictates should be used by healthcare workers. Whether they are undocumented, or are in the U.S. on a work or student visa that has now put them at risk because that education or job opportunity dissipated, these individuals now find themselves with nowhere, and often no one, to whom they can turn.
One company that is helping out by opening a virtual safe house for immigrants is the startup Homeis, which launched in early 2017 and traces its origins to New York City and Tel Aviv. The goal of this platform is to provide immigrants a forum where they can connect safely with people like them who also made the bold and difficult move to try their luck in a new, faraway land.
Since coronavirus found its way into the U.S., Homeis has seen the number of users, as well as traffic on its platform, surge. Its five digital communities currently include platforms for Indian, Mexican, French, French-speaking African, and Israeli immigrants living or working in the U.S. Now, these users can go beyond sharing their experiences and ask questions about visa extensions, healthcare options or their fundamental legal rights. Homeis is also offering Zoom meetings with guest hosts who can help answer questions about challenges including small business law, immigration and mental health.
“Language here is a very big part of the feeling of safety that people need right now. We’re giving trust and we’re giving a safe space,” said Ran Harnevo, founder of Homeis, during a recent interview with Fast Company.
Homeis has a long checklist of goals, but it has its challenges, too — namely cash flow, though the company did score $12 million in funding last summer. This startup’s story is yet another example of how small businesses with limited resources and a lot on the line are going above and beyond the call of duty during a time of crisis. “Our goal is to give them all the tools right now to find jobs, to find housing, to find the right information, and most of all to help them help each other,” Harnevo told FastCo reporter Kristin Toussaint.
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media. His previous work can be found at The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.