How Casey Is Supporting Families in Atlanta and Baltimore During COVID-19

Posted December 16, 2020
Residents working at a donation center

As the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic rages on, grantees of the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion in Atlanta and Bal­ti­more — the Foundation’s two civic sites — are help­ing young peo­ple and fam­i­lies address the result­ing edu­ca­tion­al, employ­ment and social pres­sures they’re facing.

These efforts include:

  • con­nect­ing peo­ple to health care, includ­ing men­tal health services;
  • help­ing fam­i­lies access food and oth­er crit­i­cal resources;
  • pro­vid­ing finan­cial assis­tance to keep fam­i­lies in their homes, as well as hous­ing indi­vid­u­als expe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness and advo­cat­ing to halt evic­tions and pro­tect renters;
  • work­ing to pre­vent vio­lence and sup­port those affect­ed by it;
  • sup­port­ing immi­grant fam­i­lies, includ­ing those who do not qual­i­fy for state or fed­er­al ben­e­fits; and
  • assist­ing stu­dents to secure com­put­ers and reli­able inter­net need­ed for dis­tance learning.

It’s been incred­i­ble to see how quick­ly our home­town part­ners adapt­ed to meet the chal­lenges that the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic has pre­sent­ed,” says Tomi Hiers, vice pres­i­dent of the Casey Foundation’s Cen­ter for Civic Sites and Com­mu­ni­ty Change. They’ve shift­ed their oper­a­tions to reach peo­ple safe­ly and ensure com­mu­ni­ties of col­or hit hard­est by the coro­n­avirus can meet basic needs.”

Spe­cif­ic exam­ples of this work are high­light­ed below.

Food secu­ri­ty

The Atlanta-based human­i­tar­i­an orga­ni­za­tion, CARE, has been work­ing with pub­lic and pri­vate part­ners — includ­ing com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions, the Atlanta pub­lic school sys­tem and tech com­pa­nies such as TaskRab­bit — to pro­vide gro­ceries to those in need and con­nect indi­vid­u­als to jobs sup­port­ing food-relief efforts. Those jobs have includ­ed tasks like pick­ing up gro­ceries from food sup­pli­ers for food pantries; pack­ing and sort­ing items; and deliv­er­ing food pack­ages to res­i­dents’ homes.

CARE and its part­ners have pur­chased and pro­vid­ed more than 450,000 meals to Atlanta-area res­i­dents — includ­ing those who iden­ti­fy as immi­grants — who were impact­ed by the coro­n­avirus out­break, and near­ly $200,000 in income has been gen­er­at­ed for local peo­ple assist­ing the relief efforts. In some com­mu­ni­ties, Span­ish-speak­ing out­reach spe­cial­ists and dri­vers have been hired to help get food to those most in need.

Com­mu­ni­ty safety

In Atlanta, non­prof­it CHRIS 180 has con­tin­ued its work amid the pan­dem­ic to train and hire com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers to inter­vene when gun vio­lence or retal­i­a­tion is like­ly to occur. In addi­tion to talk­ing with res­i­dents about poten­tial gun vio­lence, the organization’s vol­un­teers and staff — now equipped with face masks, gloves and hand san­i­tiz­er — are shar­ing infor­ma­tion about how to stay safe from the coro­n­avirus. These con­ver­sa­tions cov­er the basics — the impor­tance of hand wash­ing reg­u­lar­ly, stay­ing home and keep­ing a safe dis­tance from oth­ers — as well as tips for access­ing food, hous­ing and oth­er support.

Safe Streets Bal­ti­more, a vio­lence pre­ven­tion ini­tia­tive named after the city it serves, has also been talk­ing to res­i­dents — from a safe six-foot dis­tance — about pan­dem­ic safe­ty and gun vio­lence, as well as deliv­er­ing food and neces­si­ties to homes and stock­ing them at pick-up loca­tions through­out the city.

Dig­i­tal access

Elev8 Bal­ti­more, which part­ners with schools to offer var­i­ous youth and fam­i­ly ser­vices, teamed up with local tech com­pa­ny Row­dy Orb​.it as well as the Inter­net Soci­ety’s Wash­ing­ton D.C. Chap­ter and oth­er part­ners to bring free and open WiFi hotspots to pri­mar­i­ly Black com­mu­ni­ties through­out the city. Com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and youth who par­tic­i­pat­ed in local work­force and edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams were hired to help con­fig­ure and install these hotspots, pro­vid­ing them with pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence and oppor­tu­ni­ties to build tech­ni­cal skills that can be used to secure well-pay­ing tech­nol­o­gy careers.

Employ­ment and income

Since June, the Bal­ti­more Health Corps — which is fund­ed by Bal­ti­more City, the Casey Foun­da­tion, The Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion and oth­er part­ners — has been work­ing to employ full-time care coor­di­na­tors and con­tact trac­ers,” pay­ing them a liv­ing wage and pro­vid­ing them with a stipend for health insur­ance. The city-run ini­tia­tive is pri­or­i­tiz­ing the hir­ing of unem­ployed res­i­dents who live in areas that have been hit hard­est by COVID-19 infec­tions, includ­ing com­mu­ni­ties of col­or on Baltimore’s east and west sides.

In advance of ten­ants mov­ing into The Nia Build­ing at Pitts­burgh Yards in Atlanta, prop­er­ty man­age­ment firm Stream has imple­ment­ed sev­er­al mea­sures — includ­ing hand san­i­tiz­er sta­tions, mask guide­lines, inten­sive clean­ing and lim­it­ed build­ing access — to ensure the safe­ty of entre­pre­neurs, their employ­ees and cus­tomers in response to COVID-19. By doing so, Stream is help­ing to min­i­mize dis­rup­tions to busi­ness own­ers who’d pre­vi­ous­ly signed leas­es and pur­chased memberships.

Baltimore’s Youth­Works pro­gram, which typ­i­cal­ly places thou­sands of young peo­ple — most of them from com­mu­ni­ties of col­or — with employ­ers across the region, quick­ly adapt­ed its mod­el to meet the chal­lenges COVID-19 has pre­sent­ed. Youth­Works launched a vir­tu­al pro­gram that offered paid edu­ca­tion­al and train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to youth who could not be placed in jobs or intern­ships. Pro­gram part­ners esti­mate that rough­ly 4,200 of these young peo­ple accept­ed employ­ment offers and were placed in a job.

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