One22 Executive Director Sharel Lund reported Friday that the nonprofit has assisted 20 times the number of people in economic distress compared to a typical year.
While not everyone has come to One22 for help, she said, the nonprofit is currently assisting 2,259 discrete households, representing 4,921 individuals. She estimated about 60% of those clients work in the food and beverage, hospitality and other service industries.
“We predict a state of emergency or distress well into winter,” she said in Friday’s weekly community update, live-streamed from Town Hall.
Despite an outpouring of community support, she said, Jackson Hole’s high rents threaten to drain the nonprofit’s ability to keep families in their homes. Among those applying for assistance, the average housing cost is $1,890 a month for families and $1,225 for those without children.
“You can see that it will be impossible for philanthropy alone to keep these families stable,” she said.
One22 will be narrowing assistance to solely rental housing, food and medicine. Previously, the nonprofit had assisted with mortgage payments, insurance premiums and transportation, she said.
“Just imagine if you wouldn’t see a path to paying your rent,” Lund said. “It’s just incredibly stressful.”
Lund thanked the Jackson Town Council for passing a resolution calling for landlords, government, tenants, nonprofits and the community to work together to solve housing insecurity created by the pandemic. The resolution saluted landlords for forgiving rent, encouraged more landlords to reduce rent while councilors also acknowledged some landlords themselves might be struggling.
‘Symbol of trust and solidarity’
While other restrictions are easing, Teton County officials on Friday recommended that people continue to wear masks in public where 6-foot physical distancing is not possible.
In addition to the health benefits, Teton County District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell called wearing a mask a “potent symbol of trust and solidarity.”
“Since none of us truly knows if we have coronavirus at any given moment, wearing a mask shows that you’re thinking about the people around you and that you’re taking steps to protect them,” Riddell said. “Wearing a mask is an act of kindness.”
The next phase of dealing with the virus, Riddell said, will depend on community trust.
“I trust that you will stay home and get tested if you’re sick,” he said. “I trust that you will continue to practice physical isolation and wear a mask.”
Mayor Pete Muldoon urged the public not to become complacent and pointed to a Japanese island that had to shut down for a second time after a second wave of infections hit.
“Everything that we’ve sacrificed will be worth it if and when we can be open and not have to close again,” he said. “So to stay vigilant.”
The Teton County Health Department’s Rachael Wheeler also encouraged residents to get tested, even if they have mild symptoms, such as loss of taste or smell. The department has vouchers for people who need help covering the cost of a test.
Jackson Hole Fire/EMS has experienced the highest 911 call volume to date in the department’s history, Fire Chief Brady Hansen reported Friday. The volume of calls demonstrates the importance of the community shutdown, Hansen said, a move that kept call volumes at a level the department could handle.
Riddell said the county is also seeing a desired downward trend in new cases. At the same time, the local health care system is prepared and able to handle an expected uptick as restrictions loosen.
“The end of stay-at-home orders here does not mean the pandemic is over,” he said. “It means there is currently room for you in the St. John’s ICU.”