We already have several hundred files!

Monday 11 May 2020

The Corona-helpline of Caritas Luxembourg has been running for a few weeks now. A first report with Christiane Wies, coordinator of the helpline.

What is your experience of these first two weeks?

We have to admit that our estimates of the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the budgets of many families have proved to be correct. We have been overwhelmed by phone calls and emails from individuals and families in need of emergency assistance because of the health crisis. We also had to strengthen the team. Today about ten social workers are taking turns and despite this, there is a certain amount of waiting time because it takes a little time to establish a view on the social and financial situation of a family or a person. However, let's reassure people, we will process all applications.

It must be said that, beyond financial assistance, people often need to be listened to, understood and reassured. So we spend a lot of time with people on the phone. For the vast majority of people who call us, it is the first time they have found themselves in such a situation. Some tell us that they had the helpline number next to their phone for days before they dared to take the plunge. It is not easy to ask for help. Help is offered in about ten languages.

Who are the people who contact you?

These are people who until a few weeks ago managed to survive in one way or another, often thanks to the combination of two or three small jobs, limited temporary missions, tips on top of their small salary, but who now can't manage it anymore. Some of them now receive only 80% of their already very small salaries. But when you can barely survive, losing 20% of your salary is a lot. Most people tell us that they can still pay their rent and the April bills, but then they have nothing left to buy food. Others find themselves in even more dramatic situations, not even being able to pay their rent or their bills. Still others - a not insignificant number - are in an irregular situation and have no resources.

What do you do?

We give them emergency aid, in collaboration with the social office of their municipality, of course. For those who can no longer afford to buy food, we give them access to social grocery stores. We provide financial assistance to those who cannot pay their rent or electricity bills. We distribute vouchers to those with special needs. We refer those who have a housing problem to our housing department and to other organizations and structures that could help them. For those who are in irregular situations, we refer them to our social reception service.

How do you succeed in helping all these people?

We are able to help them thanks to the generosity of our donors, who have mobilized in a significant way, aware that the social consequences of the health crisis will be dramatic. Through our helpline we can see the first consequences. We already have several hundred files!  Some of these people will be able to get by with our one-off emergency aid, but how many people and families will need to be assisted in the longer term and how many others will only show up in a few weeks or months' time, when their small savings have been exhausted, when they will no longer be able to ask friends for help or when the business they used to work for will have closed down. That is also why it is important to work with the social offices.

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