SELMA — Selma Community Outreach Ministries has will be able to continue giving homeless women and children a hand up thanks to a grant from Royal Neighbors of America.
Selma C.O.M. was awarded a $10,000 Nation of NeighborsSM grant at a virtual online ceremony last week.
“It went wonderful. I was pretty surprised that we were chosen for the grant,” Selma C.O.M. founder Delfina Vasquez said to the Enterprise Recorder following the event.
“We are honored to be able to support Ms. Vazquez and Selma Community Outreach Ministries. The compassion and caring demonstrated by Ms. Vazquez in her support for the disenfranchised in her community is inspiring,” Patricia Adams, Director, Underwriting, at Royal Neighbors, said in a release.
Vasquez started the organization to feed the homeless in 2014, in partnership with several city churches. Volunteers would go out at least twice a week to provide food, which they still do today.
The program has expanded to include mobile shower facilities, hygiene care kits and clean clothing, as well as connecting clients with other community resources to assist with addiction, mental health and more. Vazquez and her team then turned their attention to providing more permanent shelter for those they serve. In 2019, in conjunction with other local groups, Selma C.O.M. was able to serve 25 women with children, providing hotel rooms and identifying alternative housing.
“We don’t want to offer a hand-out,” Vasquez said. “We’re here to offer a hand up.”
Later this month, Selma C.O.M. will open a five-room emergency shelter for women and children. The grant from Royal Neighbors of America will help ensure the continuation of The Empowering Women and Children Emergency Shelter, Vasquez said, as well as increase the number of women that can be helped.
The shelter will offer not just a stable living environment, but also connection to mental health services, wrap-around counseling, and life and coping skills training. With the Nation of Neighbors grant, Ms. Vazquez believes they will be able to expand their support to include another 35 women, providing a safe and life-changing place when they need it the most.
“Being a domestic violence victim myself, for 12 years, I can tell you first-hand that I understand that when you’re in that type of situation, you sometimes have nowhere to go and no one to help you,” she said. “So, having been there myself, I want to make sure that doesn’t happen in the city of Selma.”
The need for services like the ones provided by Selma C.O.M. are important at any time in nearly any community, but the COVID pandemic has introduced new strains on communities, particular those in underserved and poverty-afflicted areas.
“COVID has activated our ministry even more,” she said, adding that seeing how the pandemic has affected the community has been something of a motivating factor that has caused them to further their efforts to meet the need.
“Homelessness among women and children has increased tremendously,” she said. “It’s amazing how much more we’re seeing women and children go homeless right now.”