COVID-19: How to help at-risk family members, neighbors, friends, and community members

Updated at 12:28 p.m. on April 23, 2020 

Written by David Siders, Civic Engagement Coordinator, and Rachel Winters, Social Worker, and Kelly Sheehy, Content Specialist, Downtown Main Library 

At-risk people are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) illness. During these trying times, it’s important to learn ways to help share information on local and regional resources. Offer to help with groceries and food delivery for older family members and neighbors, help someone navigate resources, share your talents and volunteer with a favorite helping organization, or make a donation to a helping organization of your choice. We’ve gathered a few resources to help connect you with different ways to help in your community and beyond. We are truly all in this together. 

How to Help Others Locally 

Use this local resource guide to inform and help at-risk people in our communities

Local family medicine physicians Dr. Megan Rich and Dr. Anna Goroncy compiled a comprehensive guide that lists resources by category of need, opens a new window for our community members during these unprecedented times. It is updated frequently as the situation evolves. 

Santa Maria Community Services published a robust list of where to find food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic on their Facebook page, opens a new window. There's also a bilingual list of food pantries, opens a new window

Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati put together Hamilton County Tenant Resources and Protections in Response to COVID-19, opens a new window for anyone who needs information about their rights regarding rent payment and eviction during this crisis. 

Ohio Legal Help compiled a list of resources, opens a new window regarding many different situations from rent and mortgages to student loans to scams in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

United Way's 211 helpline , opens a new windowis connecting people to essential community services. 

Jobs and Family Services (JFS) is expanding the Prevention, Retention, and Contingency assistance program beginning April 6.

Beech Acers created a flyer with resources for anyone experiencing domestic violence. Sadly, since the stay-at-home orders went into effect there has been a sharp increase in cases, so helping people who are unsafe at home get help is of utmost importance. 

There are still many resources for people battling with a substance use disorder. Treatment Centers are open. Residents can call the Addictive Services Council , opens a new windowat 513-281-7880 to be connected to a center. The Addiction Response Coalition, opens a new window website includes a list of resources. 

Narcan is still available – call the Hamilton County Health Department at 513-946-7676 or email Hamilton County Health is still providing exchange services by appointment by calling 513-316-7725. Harm Reduction Ohio, opens a new window will also mail Narcan to houses. Organizations such as Caracol , opens a new windowwill deliver resources and can be reached by phone. 

The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, opens a new window launched a new Careline to provide emotional support for Ohioans who are experiencing stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Call 1-800-720-9616 to connect 24/7.

Advocate for people experiencing homelessness

City of Cincinnati officials announced plans to provide additional shelter, opens a new window for people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. Agencies that provide shelter can now apply for relief funding and to use those funds to move clients into individual hotel rooms. More measures are likely to come from City Council through the work of advocates and local organizations. Monetary donations to agencies such as the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, opens a new windowMaslow's Army, opens a new window, and others are welcomed and needed. 

Don’t overbuy! 

During Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s March 19, 2020 press conference, opens a new window, his office confirmed that the supply chain is doing well. People should limit their purchasing of groceries and thermometers, and think of others’ needs.

Spread the word about testing sites and best practices

Our region has a long track record of working collaboratively in matters affecting health and healthcare. The COVID-19 outbreak is no exception. Through The Health Collaborative’s Greater Cincinnati Disaster Preparedness Coalition, you can learn more about these health assessment sites, opens a new window and share them with others. 

The CDC recommends the use of non-medical cloth face covering, opens a new window as a voluntary health measure. Social distancing measures still remain the same.

Uninsured coronavirus patients will be reimbursed by the federal government for costs associated with coronavirus testing and treatment.

Note Cincinnati Parks’ early bathroom openings

Cincinnati Parks decided to open one public bathroom in each park, opens a new window in response to COVID-19 concerns. Hand washing is key to preventing the spread of the disease, and in keeping the safety of the public in mind, providing access to restrooms in our Parks is essential.

Participate in Mutual Aid

Equality Ohio emphasizes that many of our community members, including the LGBTQ+ community, will not be able to survive both physically and financially unless we come together and help take care of one another. One form of help that has been emerging is mutual aid, opens a new window. Mutual aid is a form of social participation in which people take responsibility for caring for another and changing social conditions. Through mutual aid, community members build new social relations to help keep one another afloat and mitigate harm. Social media is a great organizing ground for these endeavors. 

Support local donation centers and food banks
As we work together to support each other in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many places are in need of material donations as well as funds. 

  • Read about Goodwill Industries' plan for donating and shopping at Goodwill locations near you. 
  • Council on Aging, opens a new window put a call out for donations to help with feeding seniors and getting them supplies.
  • Support food banks and pantries. Food banks store food donations before they are distributed to local food programs, such as food pantries, where those seeking food can come get their groceries. Both are important to support right now, particularly through monetary donations. If you’re interested in giving money to a food pantry in your community, check out , opens a new windowfor donation and contact information.
  • Give blood at Hoxworth Blood Center, opens a new window. There’s already a shortage of blood at blood banks, both locally and across the country. If you are healthy and eligible, now is a great time to give. It’s lifesaving and an accepted reason to travel, even while Stay at Home orders are in effect. While there will be no mobile donor buses for the time being, you can go to a neighborhood donor center operating under extended hours and in compliance with CDC regulations. Information is currently being updated at, opens a new window.

Shop online at small businesses and order takeout from restaurants 

While many businesses are closed due to Stay at Home measures, you can still support small businesses by buying gift cards or shopping on their websites. Restaurants are still allowed to serve delivery and take out so support those too, if you are able. You can support nationally via Help Main Street, opens a new window

3CDC is providing tenant rent relief for their tenants. They are also partnering with P&G and Empower on a program to help restaurants in Downtown Cincinnati. When an individual purchases a gift card at a downtown restaurant, they should take a photo of the receipt and download it to and 3CDC will purchase a gift card in the same amount from a similar downtown business and send that gift card to the individual. 

How to Help Others Nationally

As schools remain closed and workers across the country are sent home due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, many of the most vulnerable populations in the United States, opens a new window face stressors that extend beyond the immediate health concerns spurred by the global pandemic. 

Immigrants and Refugees 

Federal and state governments are banning large gatherings. Conferences are being postponed, and sports events are canceling at unprecedented rates to decrease the likelihood of disease spread. But what happens if your home is in a confined refugee settlement? This NPR article, opens a new window offers an important perspective and ways to help. 

Asian communities facing xenophobia 

According to a recent article from Vox, opens a new window, "The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, opens a new window, which works with Asian American communities to protect and promote civil rights, is documenting incidents of anti-Asian harassment, discrimination, and hate violence in the wake of the COVID-19 spread, and they’re encouraging individuals to report these incidents to the appropriate authorities.” Online donations are the best way to help the group continue its important work. It's also important to speak out and help in whatever way you are able if you ever see someone being harassed. 

Frontline workers without health insurance

Organizations such as the HealthWell Foundation, opens a new window help people who are unable to pay medical expenses, while RIP Medical Debt, opens a new window, buys medical debt to essentially wipe it out for recipients.

Other people at risk

There's a lot we don't know about the novel coronavirus that's shutting down the world. But we do know this: the sick, the elderly, and the immune-compromised are particularly at risk. If you or a loved one falls into this category, there are some things you can do to help keep COVID-19 at bay, opens a new window. As Harvard's Dr. Rob Shmerling points out, it starts with situational awareness. 

Donate, donate, donate

There are thousands of aid organizations set up across the country and the globe. You can even use sites like GoFundMe to support communities and individuals directly. GoFundMe created a hub, opens a new window for all its many verified COVID-19 campaigns. 

The United Way COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund specifically assists people hit hardest by providing assistance with such things as housing and utility payments. Funds go to more than 1,200 different chapters across the country. 

How to Help Others Globally

As we work together to support each other in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this YouTube video, opens a new window from the UK exemplifies situational awareness and helping others amidst the global crisis.

This recent New York Times article, opens a new window lists many global organizations helping out in other countries with everything from relief funds to medical supplies. 

As we think of our at-risk community members, neighbors, family, and friends, we must learn more about what mutual aid means to our communities.

For the latest Library service updates and resources, please visit our COVID-19 resource page, opens a new window.