Chris Krehmeyer never predicted a global pandemic, but when one hit, “our sense was ‘we were built for this.’”
Krehmeyer, the CEO of Beyond Housing (Neighborworks network organization) in North St. Louis County, Missouri said his team’s response to the community’s urgent needs came from the relationships they have been building for years. When other organizations were trying to find ways to help with the area’s response to COVID-19, they knew Beyond Housing was a wise investment, which led to $1 million in charitable contributions from non-profits, corporations and individual donors.
“People have heard us say over the years that we are building deep and trusted relationships,” Krehmeyer said. “That includes relationships we have with people on the ground in the community who can make things happen.”
Beyond Housing was able to deliver meals, provide basic supplies, and help with residents’ monthly expenses.
Community members were struggling to find information about COVID-19 testing, food security, rent and utility support, and other services they had never expected to need. So Beyond Housing brought all that information to our241.com, a new one-click resource with real-time updates on everything the community needed. (The name references Beyond Housing’s 24:1 Community, named for a service area where 24 municipalities and neighborhoods make up one school district where many residents have similar needs.)
The site is expected to outlive the virus and continue to be an information hub for residents and community leaders.
As the pandemic played out, Beyond Housing was able to continue much of its other work, including a long-time economic development plan to open a new retail facility with a food hall, a pub, boutique shops and other businesses that are otherwise lacking in the area. Beyond Housing supported those businesses throughout the COVID-19 economic challenges to ensure they’re still strong for the ribbon-cutting that’s taking place in July 2021.
Another ongoing pandemic-era community outreach effort was “Let’s Chalk,” which encouraged adults and children to share their experiences in real time throughout the neighborhood with sidewalk chalk drawings and text.
“It was another way to get people’s stories, using something as simple as chalk,” Krehmeyer said. “We like to ask people, ‘How can we make this place that you call home everything you want it to be?’”