In an effort to provide aid and comfort to the community during the recent stay-at-home orders, USC public safety officers and local police have joined forces to deliver food and essential items to community members.
According to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, there are more than 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. With these rising numbers, many residents are relying on aid from others.
Dulce Acosta, USC’s Executive Director for Community Partnerships, examined the data, and they determined that the two vulnerable groups they were going to focus on serving were elders and single-headed households in East Los Angeles. 40.3% of households in East L.A., according to The American Community Survey.
“These communities are often over-policed, so this is a chance to see officers in a different light,” Acosta said.
To most effectively help the community, DPS officers worked with LAPD Southwest Division officers to first identify families in need. They then called households and asked what families needed. If the families have children, coloring books, journals and pins are included, according to Acosta.
“Once we come out of this crisis, we are going to have created so many strong partnerships,” Acosta said. “I believe this is a new direction for the university.”
“The L.A. Clippers donated four vans with drivers to aid our efforts, so what we do is wellness calls to elders and vulnerable families,” Acosta said. “We then assess if they have the economic or social need, we create these routes and we send our volunteers with our vans to go and distribute food.”
The Keck School of Medicine of USC also provided other essentials for older community members. According to Acosta, the funding from the school allowed them to start a food distribution center at the East Los Angeles YMCA. As a result, over 10,000 grocery bags were delivered to L.A. County seniors.
“There is nothing worse for a parent in a time like this than having kids and not being able to feed them,” Department of Public Safety Chief John Thomas said in a report to USC News.
Thomas “wanted to do something, collaboratively with the LAPD, that builds community and strengthens the relationship between DPS, the police and the university,” he said.
Teenager Maria Samano and her mother were one of the households who received the delivery service. Her mother heard about the service through the Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles.
“It was easy going — like the instructions were, there the people who were providing the food service were very kind,” Samano said. “They were compassionate, just that type of ambiance, you know, a caring environment.”
“We want to treat these community members with integrity, and not as a hand me down,” Acosta said. “We want to help a neighbor, so we do the extra work by calling them so that when we knock on their door they aren’t surprised. They know who we are, and the kids were super excited to meet officers.”