Bronzeville nonprofit sees spike in calls to trauma helpline during COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A church on Chicago's South Side is answering calls for help from those struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pastor Christopher Harris heads Bright Star Community Outreach in the city's Bronzeville neighborhood. The nonprofit has seen a spike in calls to their trauma helpline.

"Our clients are struggling with their fears and anxiety, really particularly around the unknown," Harris said.

Statistics show blacks account for a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Chicago.

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"The reality is that, of course, we are not only seeing it, we are feeling it," Harris said. "We literally live it every single day."

The helpline was set up a few years ago for people in neighborhoods plagued by violence in need of trauma counseling.

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"How can you ask someone to have strong mental health when they lack jobs? They lack resources. They lack access to care. They lack access to world-class education and including the day to day violence we deal with in the African American community," Harris said.

Now, Bright Star Community Outreach has expanded their focus to include coronavirus.

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The virus has not only changed how helpline advocates do their jobs, but also where. They've been working from home.

"My first priority as a leader is to make sure our team is safe, and then we needed to make sure they are able to continue to serve in the capacity that they do," Harris said.
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