In times of crisis, people turn inward—to the fundamental needs of their family. That response is playing out during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the organizations that are part of the Purpose Built Communities network, the concept of family extends into the communities they serve. Many have taken on efforts to provide and coordinate essential relief services such as food distribution and income support. They are able to do this work because of the long-term commitment they have made to their communities.
These Network Members are well-positioned to lead through this crisis because of an ongoing focus on building trust and elevating community leaders. Together, they know the strengths and vulnerabilities of their neighborhoods and residents. Strong relationships and mutual respect are allowing place-based leadership to respond nimbly to the specific and dynamic needs of their community family. Here are a few examples of how Network Members are continuing their work to end generational poverty within the context of this public health crisis.
Grove Park Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia
The virus and resulting shutdown created immediate, severe and often complete loss of income for seventy-five percent of the employed residents of Grove Park who work in the service industry. Many residents were at imminent risk of being displaced from their homes in 30-60 days. Network Member Grove Park Foundation worked with partners to quickly seed and fund a COVID-19 Emergency Fund, which has raised $145,000 and counting to provide emergency rent and utility assistance for residents who have experienced loss of income or employment due to COVID-19.
Grove Park Foundation also saw many members of their community taking to social media with questions about the CARES Act stimulus check; where did the money come from? Will I have to pay it back next year? I haven’t received my stimulus check, what steps do I need to take to get it? The Foundation created a new social media series led by their senior director of economic development (#TalkWithTarnace) to answer questions and alleviate the stress of confusion.
Connect Community in the Gulfton/Sharpstown neighborhoods of Houston, Texas
When COVID-19 hit, Connect Community knew they could mobilize talented neighborhood sewists to generate income for residents while helping protect public health. Connect Community launched the Sewn Goods Collaborative with partners Houston Community College, Houston Furniture Bank and several small-batch manufacturers, nonprofits and local sewists to offer high-quality, reusable cloth masks to public health workers, employees at essential businesses and residents.
Other examples include:
- Southeast Raleigh Promise (Raleigh) has distributed 37,937 meals to 1,300 households
- Boston-Thurmond United (Winston-Salem) has distributed 1,636 critical supply bags and 2,000 masks to 973 households.
- REACH Riverside (Wilmington) is providing $900,000 in cash assistance to 300 households over the next six months.
- Focused Community Strategies (Atlanta) has provided $56,000 in direct cash assistance to 280 households.
- Growing Together (Tulsa) created a 0% interest microloan fund that has distributed $100,000 to 12 small businesses to date.
- East Lake Foundation (Atlanta) goal is to help homelessness prevention through funding for rental and utility assistance for residents of The Villages of East Lake and ensuring that families in need can access critical fee-based education and wellness programs when ELF partners resume services.
These examples show what caring, competent and committed place-based leaders are doing to take care of their neighborhoods—short, medium and long-term. Change at the neighborhood level is critical to ending intergenerational poverty. We don’t know how long the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fall-out will go on, but when there is an existing resiliency, people taking care of their communities—their families—we believe recovery can be swifter.