Norfolk nonprofit gives clients cell phones to help with services during social distancing

Norfolk

​NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — More than a month ago, while residents rushed to buy disinfectants, food, and toilet paper, the staff at Life’s Journey in Norfolk were busy buying cell phones and other digital devices for their clients.

The mobile phone is now a lifeline for mental health providers and their clients at the 4-year-old Norfolk-based mental health care and behavioral health provider. The 75 clients are among the neediest people in the area who are at risk of catching the potentially deadly virus.

They range in age from 19 to 70 and their medical ailments include heart disease, diabetes, thyroid disorder, lung disease and cancer. Their mental health conditions include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, suicidal tendencies and substance abuse. Some are homeless, and some are veterans.

Staff at the center quickly mobilized to make sure every client had a mobile device and a means to connect to the internet as the possibility of coronavirus in Hampton Roads grew more likely.

“We were able to supply them with the phones and the technology they needed to continue services and to make sure that they are safe,” said Benicia Gill, owner of Life’s Journey. Funds from her nonprofit organization were used to keep her clients connected.

Gill and Shante Williams, the assistant clinical director, are providing support to the clients during the pandemic. These days have required a lot of virtual hand-holding.

Fortunately, because of the pandemic, rides on Hampton Roads Transit buses are now free.

“Now the coordination becomes… now, what time do you need to get to the bus stop? What time does the bus arrive? Were you able to successfully get to your location and back home?​” said Gill.

One of their clients used his phone to contact 10 On Your Side. The Norfolk man said his elective surgery has been postponed because of the pandemic. ​

The messages on social distancing and personal hygiene appear to be working. So far, not one client has tested positive for COVID-19.​

Williams is proud of how clients have adapted to the new normal.

“Not only are they trying to maintain their mental health but they also are able to maintain their health during this pandemic,” Williams said.

​Life’s Journey has partnered with the Wesley Community Service Center in Portsmouth to help feed the needy. It’s hosting a virtual “5K Race in Place” May 16th at 9 am to help replenish the center’s food pantry.

You can register for the race at https://bit.ly/ProjectLifesJourney5K.

Those who wish to contribute can donate online at https://www.raceplanner.com/donate/projectlifesjourney.


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