Making the City Healthier and Safer

A Farewell to Urban Upbound Resource Navigator Team

Last month, Urban Upbound bid farewell to our team of Resource Navigators. For the past 13 months, the Urban Upbound Resource Navigator team helped support New Yorkers who needed to quarantine because of exposure to Coronavirus. Since the City’s Take Care Initiative started in June 2020, the Navigator team made over 50,000 calls in total to check in on quarantined New Yorkers. This week, Resource Navigator Director Paul Sawyer shared his team experiences from the field that are most memorable to him!

Through these check-in calls, Navigators identified the different situations of each self-quarantined client — but their work is more than knowing clients’ needs and pulling up a database to find services and resources corresponding to these needs. Navigators had to come up with creative ways to quickly solve problems, such as when the City’s database system could not identify a multifamily home with 3 different families living in the same building. Each family was in quarantine and needed to get food delivered to their door. When a Navigator tried to send three different grocery deliveries to the same address with different floor levels, the system rejected it because it considered the request already made. Our navigator was able to solve it by adding a letter next to the floor number, so it was input as different addresses. Quick small actions such as this saved the lives of many families.

Calling dozens of New Yorkers everyday, they would never know what awaited them on the other line. Last year, a team member was on a call with a 3-generation family living in an apartment unit. There was a grandmother, a mother and her sister, a young child, and 2 babies. When the grandma, mother, and the sister had the Coronavirus, no one in the household was able to step outside to buy medications for the baby who was sick. There wasn’t any pharmacy nearby that could do delivery in that area. After finding someone who could buy the medications, the Navigator handling the case instructed them on how the person could deliver it to this family without contracting the virus. The baby got better in their next check-in call as the family went through their recovery.

Dealing with different types of people every day, burn-out was one of the biggest challenges facing the team. They never knew when they would have a hostile encounter or an emotional call with a suicidal person. Paul made sure the team’s mental health was taken care of. He always told them to let him know if a call had drained them emotionally and they could be done for the day.

When our small team of 8 people was able to reach thousands of people and make as many calls as they did, their achievement was recognized by NYC’s Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations (HRO) who managed the initiative citywide. Urban Upbound is proud of our Resource Navigator team. They made an impact in keeping New Yorkers safe by making these calls.

While the Resource Navigator’s task has ended, other Urban Upbound’s services are still operational — both in person and virtually. You can support our cause by donating here and you can learn more about our impact and work by following us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube) and subscribing to our newsletter. Thank you for supporting Urban Upbound’s mission and being a champion of our relief efforts during the pandemic!

A collection of stories around NYC’s public housing communities curated by Urban Upbound, a non-profit organization with a mission to break cycles of poverty.