We have been talking a lot lately about cash. Between the launch and expansion of the new cohort of The Magnolia Mother’s Trust, our Emergency Cash Disbursement Campaign, and the newfound energy policymakers and other community leaders have had around conversations concerning cash disbursements, it is no surprise that this is what we have been talking about.
And while we’re grateful and excited for this new energy around cash, we also know that at our heart, Springboard To Opportunities is a resident service provider trying to reimagine what resident services can look like for families living in low-income housing through a radically resident-driven lens. But what does it look like to provide services to families when we must be six feet apart? What does it mean to be radially resident-driven when hosting community conversations and listening sessions is no longer an option? How do we respond to needs like education support and finding jobs when traditional after school programs and career services are no longer safe to implement?
While these questions are on their surface daunting and overwhelming, we are also excited for the opportunity to be answering them. It is easy to just try to do more of the same – try to offer our normal slate of programming virtually, try to maintain some normalcy until this is all past us – but what if our job right now is not to just maintain until all of this goes away? What if our job is to do the hard work of really looking at our organizations to understand how our work and mission fits into the new reality that we are all living in?
This summer, we have delivered over 5,000 boxes of food to families in need and brought 9,000 meals on site through feeding partners to children in need in our communities. We have been helping those who have lost work or hours apply for unemployment benefits and identify local resources to help with rent and utility payments. We have utilized social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to share our summer camp videos for families to watch and participate in activities through. We’re checking in with families as they make decisions about the upcoming school year and are asking them directly how we can be supportive in terms of virtual learning and finding support from other parents in their community. We are researching and trying out new programs around mental health and self-care, particularly to support single mothers in this time.
It is very different than what a normal summer with Springboard To Opportunities looks like and there are still a lot of new things we are learning and figuring out, but we knew it was our job as an organization to adjust to the needs to families, not the other way around.
The truth is none of us know when the pandemic is going to end and even when it does, there will be no returning to what we once understood as normal. All of us will be continue to feel the trauma and anxiety of this time, and for our families, who in many ways have been hit the hardest by all the consequences of COVID-19, the effects will be serious and long-lasting. We have to be asking hard questions about what we need to be doing to shift in order to maintain our mission as an organization. The needs of vulnerable families are shifting rapidly and it is our job as organizations and policymakers to be innovative and creative and shift accordingly to best serve those who need it most. It should not be our expectation that families just trying to survive will shift to accommodate us.
As the world continues to change, we will keep exploring these questions and continue to be as creative and innovative as possible. We are trying new things, some that work well and some that need adjusting, but our commitment is to be an organization helping residents reach their goals in life, work, and school, even in the midst of a pandemic.