How Victoria Makes a Difference as an Outreach Caller

How Victoria Makes a Difference as an Outreach Caller

04/30/2020

Is there anything Fortune could do to better support you at this time?

Have you been able to access any food resources in your community?

Do you feel socially isolated or lonely? Would you like one of Fortune’s mental health workers to contact you?

These are some of the questions that Victoria Iglesias Nieves, an Outreach Caller and Court Writer at The Fortune Society, asks participants when she calls to check on their well-being during COVID-19. Everyday, she engages in friendly phone conversations with Fortune participants, asking about their wellness, what services they need, and conditions in their communities, jobs, and housing situations.

As part of a new team of 25 outreach callers Fortune created when it started providing services via video and telephone in March, Victoria helps ensure that the transition to remote support is as seamless as possible.

“I'm basically accounting for any gaps in services that this remote period might have,” said Victoria.

The questions that Victoria asks during her calls come from a new, comprehensive wellness check-in system created by Micaela Linder, Fortune’s Director of Research. It contains nearly 60 questions on different aspects of well-being including mental health, food access, substance use, housing, police contact, and more. Answers may lead to referrals to Fortune’s services, so that sometimes, participants are connected to programs they did not previously take part in.

“When you start asking them questions,” said Victoria, “it's like maybe they're not doing as well as they think they are, or maybe there are resources available that they might not even know about.”

Before COVID-19, Victoria was a full-time Court Writer at Fortune, advocating to divert people to our Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) program. With COVID-19 affecting the court system, however, Victoria found herself with a smaller workload and wanted to make herself as useful as possible. She immediately volunteered to be an outreach caller, even offering her bilingual skills and translating outreach materials into Spanish.

Based on her calls, some of the main challenges she’s noticed people face is difficulty finding employment and an inability to avoid crowds due to the nature of their jobs or housing situations. She also frequently engages in conversations about mental health, which has worsened for many people during COVID-19.

“The fact that we're asking people, "Do you feel lonely? How do you feel about the future?" I really appreciate those [questions] because it's what people are thinking about,” she said.

The outreach calls not only connect people to resources and services, but are themselves a source of comfort and stability. The outreach calls let participants know that despite turbulent times, Fortune’s staff is here to help.

Victoria says people have expressed appreciation in receiving a friendly phone call from “a familiar face, a familiar voice,” especially when the individual is living alone or has little support.

Going forward, the outreach team has considered creating a delivery system and care package program in response to fears from participants about going outside due to medical conditions or disabilities. It is a system that remains flexible to evolving needs.

As nonprofits navigate how to serve the community during unprecedented times, Fortune’s outreach callers reflect efforts to adapt and innovatively connect people to services during COVID-19. Victoria is thankful for the responsibility to carry out this work, which not only supports participants, but communities at-large.

“To be directly talking with people, especially during a time of isolation feels good, because a connection goes a long way,” she said. “It makes me feel like I'm making a difference.”

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