Metropolitan Ministries has a wide variety of staff members that help make the First Hug program happen.

By Laura Tamayo

As COVID-19’s drastic impact on Hillsborough County persists, Metropolitan Ministries has adapted to ensure it can meet the rising needs of the community. With its extremely efficient programs, the organization has been able to alleviate a significant amount of stress around the county.

The ministry’s services target homeless and at-risk children and families; offering food and board at its shelter, helping people get jobs in the area, securing education for any children and adolescents and more through multiple programs such as First Hug.

For families who are referred to or apply for First Hug, case management services are applied, free of charge and it connects with Family Advocates to develop plans that will best achieve success for them.

“We also provide referrals to services beyond our case management, according to family needs, to include school readiness referrals. The Family Advocates meet with the families weekly to provide support and assistance in reaching their goals,” explained Supervisor of Family Advocates Sandra Gonzalez-Coronado.

To qualify for this, families must meet three requirements: they must reside in Hillsborough county, have (at least) one child between the ages of 0 to middle school and be at risk of becoming homeless (which includes not having a stable/permanent home).

Once the family applies, or is referred, by going to metromin.org/firsthug and filling out the referral form, case management services typically last from three to six months. In order to attend to the maximum possible number of in-need families, the family receiving the services cannot do so again for another year after their case closing date.

Because of the effect of the coronavirus, Metropolitan Ministries is now handling an astronomical amount of cases and any help is extremely appreciated.

“The response [to COVID-19] has been incredible and the overwhelming need of the community is jaw-dropping because we’ve never seen anything like this,” said Billy Somerville, associate director of brand communications.

To donate, you can either contribute funds directly through the website or pass by its donation locations (which are also listed on the Metropolitan Ministries website) Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Gonzalez-Coronado would also like to specify that the Brandon Team, covering all of Eastern and Southern Hillsborough County, will have the availability to cover 30 new cases in August. The Tampa Team has a very short wait list, so if you feel yourself or someone you know should be referred, head to its website and fill out the form.