Talk to Us, We Will Listen: TASK Continues to Give Patrons a Voice Despite Pandemic-Related Challenges

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TASK Patron Services Specialist, Evie Spadafora (L) provides a hygiene kit for one TASK patron in March, just days after statewide mandate put in motion by Governor Murphy calls for social distancing.

Poverty can steal a voice. So often, the people who need services most are never asked what they want. Unfortunately, sometimes people on the outside looking in, assume they can prescribe a solution without truly listening to the person in need. In a recent survey, patrons told TASK in their own words what they need most as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter lives. As expected, financial instability, lack of housing, clothing, mental health services and food topped the list of needs, but other elements revealed the simple things matter so much.

A newspaper to read, a radio to listen to, and a portable restroom whose use needs no explanation are just a few of the creature-comfort requests captured. TASK has done its own in-house surveys, and staffers always listen and work to respond to patrons needs, said TASK Programs Manager Jaimie Parker. This new survey, however, offered the soup kitchen a formal snapshot in time – a collection of patron thoughts, ideas, and experiences while living in the “new normal” they find themselves in today. Conducted with the help of a grant from Listen4Good (L4G), a national organization that helps nonprofits improve data collection, the survey included a combination of six open-ended and multiple-choice questions generated by L4G and TASK staffers. Parker said the survey can help TASK pave a sturdier path with data that could “open the soup kitchen up to new resources that can help us provide even better, more meaningful support to our patrons.”