The pandemic has been challenging Miriam Soto.

“You have to stay home,” she said during an interview on Broadway in Newburgh. “It’s very depressing.”

What You Need To Know

  • Mutual aid groups have grown on social media to help people meet emergency needs during the pandemic

  • Group administrators are connecting with each poster with longer-term assistance

  • Food is among the greatest needs

She seeks help sometimes in person, at various agencies on Broadway, but often finds herself in situations in which she needs immediate help. For one, she needs tech assistance so she can attend her virtual recovery meetings.

“I can’t even get into the Zoom,” she said. “Something with phone calls or phone chats. That would help me.”

She might find assistance in one of the several local mutual aid groups on social media.

Some people go into the groups to offer help, services and money. Some go in to ask for help for themselves. Others go in to ask for help for someone they know.

For instance, in one post, someone writes that they are looking for supplies and diapers for a house-bound woman. The requests are often followed up with more offers to help.

“I can deliver today,” one person replied to the post seeking supplies and diapers. “Also have baby necessities, bottles, bouncers, car seat, etc. What all does she need?”

“Everything. PM me,” the original poster responded.

“There becomes this sense of relationship,” said Michelle McKeon, an administrator of the Newburgh Mutual Aid group.

She said the pandemic has pushed people so close to the edge that in some cases they cannot wait a few days for public assistance they are expecting.

“It’s interesting. I’m teaching a sociology class right now. We’re talking about individuals, communities, and systems,” McKeon said during an interview Thursday. “When an individual has a need, the community steps up where a system may not be able to. I think that encapsulates what Newburgh Mutual Aid is, or any mutual aid.”

McKeon said she and other administrators follow up with everyone who seeks help in the group. Their top focus is to connect each person with steady assistance and a steady food source. That also interests Soto.

“I don’t even have groceries in my house right now. I’ve been hungry for a day or two,” she said. “Oh my god, my neighbors are going to see this, but I am.”