Right now, thousands of families across the City of Atlanta are at risk of eviction or homelessness due to COVID-19-related financial hardship. But there’s hope. Get help today through the Atlanta Emergency Housing Assistance Program. To check your eligibility or to apply for funds online, click here. You must be a resident of the City of Atlanta.

Interested in applying with the help of an on-site expert? We are holding outreach events at United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Loudermilk Center. Below are dates and times. The Loudermilk Center is located at 40 Courtland Street NE, Atlanta, 30303.

**United Way of Greater Atlanta follows CDC guidelines  – requiring masks, social distancing and hand sanitizing – to ensure that we keep everyone safe. 

  • Wednesday, 8/4/2021 – 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (*Registration now FULL*)
  • Saturday, 8/14/2021 – 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (*Registration now FULL*)
  • Tuesday, 8/17/2021 – 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (*Registration now FULL*)
  • Thursday, 8/26/2021 – 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (*Registration now FULL*)

For a list of eligibility requirements, click here. You must be a resident of the City of Atlanta.

The Atlanta COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program recently experienced technical issues with applications and some applicants may have received an error message. If you received an error message, you may need to reapply. Please read the questions and answers below to determine if you need to reapply.

I went through the application process and when I submitted it, I received an error message that said, “Uh oh. There was a problem. We weren’t able to save your intake information. Please try again later.” Do I need to reapply?

Yes, unfortunately, because of the technical issue, we did not receive your application. Please reapply at https://www.unitedwayatlanta.org/atlanta-covid-19-emergency-housing-assistance-program.

I received a message that I wasn’t eligible for funds. Do I need to reapply?

No, we received your application, and it was determined that you did not qualify for the Atlanta COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program. However, you may call 2-1-1 to inquire about other available resources.

I have more questions. What should I do?

Click here to see more Frequently Asked Questions on the Atlanta COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program Application page.

You may also contact 2-1-1 if you have more questions or are continuing to experience technical difficulties.

Click here if you’re ready to apply.

ATLANTA – June 10, 2021 – As our region continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a critical need for investments that broaden access to vaccines for communities that do not have equitable opportunities to receive them. Education to address vaccine hesitancy, especially among immigrant and minority communities, is also a priority to ensure maximum vaccination levels across the metro area.

To make vaccine access more equitable, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and United Way of Greater Atlanta have committed $1.125 million in grants to 23 organizations addressing these challenges. Grants will be administered as the ninth and final round of grants made possible through the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. This round of funding, which is focused on moving our region forward from emergency response to recovery, also includes four grants totaling $550,000 to bolster capacity for nonprofits and nonprofit leaders; 15 grants totaling $1 million to nonprofits focused on comprehensive summer learning opportunities including social emotional supports and to address the digital divide; and 13 grants totaling $650,000 to organizations leading on policy and advocacy, for a total of $3.325 million awarded in this round.

In the initial stages of vaccine roll out in Georgia, as few as 7% of the Latinx population and 16% of the Black population were receiving vaccines compared to 24% in the white population and 33% in the Asian population. In response, the Community Foundation partnered with the Metro Atlanta Chamber to convene leaders from across the region to focus on access to, and education about, the vaccine with a goal of reaching an 80% vaccination rate in the region by July 4. This work informed the latest round of grants to nonprofits that are well positioned to move rapidly and have direct, immediate impact in targeted communities. Grant recipients range from those working broadly across the region to those focusing their efforts on a specific language-speaking population or zip code. All grant recipients are detailed below.

“Since the launch of the COVID-19 Fund in March 2020, its aim was to be nimble and pivot as needed to respond to the most critical need at a given time,” said Frank Fernandez, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “From its initial days funding immediate needs including food access for neighbors in need and childcare for first responders, the Fund’s later rounds focused on changing priorities, including technology for remote learning for students, housing and mental health. This final round of grants focuses on initial steps from response toward recovery and today’s most pressing need, ensuring that our region’s rate of vaccinations improves so that we can truly begin to move forward and return to some sense of normalcy.”

With the COVID-19 grant cycles now complete, moving forward, the Community Foundation and United Way will continue to partner in place-based work to address the needs that COVID-19 exacerbated in our region, especially the racial inequities that emerged in areas ranging from healthcare outcomes to access to essential resources.

“The fact that we pulled together the COVID-19 Fund, secured financial commitments from individuals, corporate partners and private foundations, and made our first grants in a matter of days last March is a testament to the power of partnership,” said Milton Little, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta. “Now, moving forward, we will work in partnership with our community to develop and deepen place-based strategies that engage local stakeholders, aiming to address the root causes of the challenges that COVID-19 laid bare on our region.”

A grand total of $28.2 million from the COVID-19 Fund has been mobilized to benefit 478 nonprofits in its nine funding cycles. Today’s announced grants, as well as those made in the earlier rounds, are listed on both the Community Foundation’s website and United Way’s website.

Grants for vaccination access and education were prioritized to organizations that are predominantly led by Black and Latinx people as representatives of communities that were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 in our communities. These organizations work across a variety of social and economic issues that are critical to recovery for the region and are explicitly working toward improving the lives of people of color, including immigrant and refugee communities.

 

  1. 100 Black Men of Atlanta: $42,500 for the design, coordination, and execution of vaccination efforts on the West Side/Vine Cities communities within zip code 30318.
  2. Amani Women Center: $28,500 for the design, coordination, and execution of vaccine awareness/education campaigns in African-specific languages.
  3. Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) – Atlanta: $50,000 to expand testing/vaccine access and outreach efforts for faith-based partners within Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties.
  4. Center for Pan-Asian Community Services: $50,000 to expand vaccine accessibility to communities served in DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties.
  5. Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta Inc.: $25,000 to expand COVID-19 testing/vaccination awareness and outreach efforts in metro Atlanta.
  6. CORE: $250,000 to operate COVID-19 mobile vaccination units.
  7. CovidCareGA: $20,000 for COVID-19 vaccination efforts in the metro-Atlanta region.
  8. The Family Health Centers of Georgia: $50,000 for COVID-19 testing/vaccination efforts throughout metro Atlanta.
  9. Feminist Women’s Health Center: $25,000 for COVID-19 testing and vaccines.
  10. Georgia Charitable Care Network: $50,000 for COVID-19 testing/vaccination efforts at charitable clinics in metro Atlanta
  11. Good News Clinics: $50,000 for COVID-19 testing/vaccination efforts in Hall county.
  12. Hispanic Alliance GA: $50,000 for COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts to improve accessibility in Barrow, Forsyth, Gwinnett and Hall counties.
  13. Interfaith Youth Core: $25,000 for COVID-19 vaccination outreach efforts in metro-Atlanta.
  14. Latin American Association: $25,000 for COVID-19 vaccination outreach efforts of the Latinx community in metro-Atlanta.
  15. Latino Community Fund: $100,000 for the design, coordination and support of vaccination efforts within Latinx communities.
  16. Los Niños Primero (Children First): $50,000 for COVID-19 vaccination efforts and outreach in the Latinx community.
  17. The Nett Church: $12,000 for COVID-19 testing/vaccination efforts.
  18. Refugee Women’s Network, Inc.: $28,500 for COVID-19 testing/vaccination efforts in refugee and immigrant communities within Clarkston.
  19. Ser Familia, Inc.: $50,000 for COVID-19 vaccination efforts and outreach in the Latinx community.
  20. Southside Medical Center: $50,000 for COVID-19 testing/vaccination efforts throughout metro Atlanta.
  21. The Twenty Pearls Foundation, Inc.: $33,500 for expanding COVID-19 testing/vaccine access, education and awareness in South Fulton communities.
  22. Unidos Latino Association, Inc.: $35,000 for COVID-19 testing/vaccination efforts and outreach in Newton and Rockdale counties.
  23. VOX ATL (aka VOX Teen Communications): $25,000 for COVID-19 vaccination outreach efforts focused on youth vaccination in the metro-Atlanta region.

Capacity building enables nonprofit leaders and organizations to develop the skills and resources they need to strengthen their work. These capacity building investments were responsive to the current COVID-19 landscape. Grants awarded to build capacity for nonprofits include:

  1. Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement: $150,000 to provide capacity building resources for the development of a coordinated care system.
  2. Center for Civic Innovation: $100,000 for a self-care/mental health fund and accompanying programming to support Women of Color community leaders and entrepreneurs.
  3. Georgia Center for Nonprofits: $125,000 to lead 30 Resiliency to Recovery Strategy and Roadmaps program grantees through GCN’s Resilience to Recovery Cohort, including expanded training and $2,500 stipends per organization.
  4. Latino Community Fund: $175,000 to provide capacity-building resources to Latinx-led and Latinx-serving organizations.

The pandemic has set back learning for students in our region and access to summer learning programs is critical to addressing further learning loss. Grants awarded for education include:

  1. 21st Century Leaders: $45,000 for a summer learning program, which will enhance STEM leadership development skills as well as address digital divide for youth in metro Atlanta.
  2. Agape Youth and Family Center: $100,000 for summer learning programs, including work to close the digital divide, in the city of Atlanta.
  3. Atlanta CARES Mentoring Movement: $75,000 for summer learning opportunities that focus on literacy and STEM while addressing the mental health and well-being challenges related to the COVID-19 disruption of the learning environment that is impacting metro Atlanta students.
  4. Center for Pan-Asian Community Services: $100,000for summer learning programs and technology needs for students.
  5. Community Guilds (STE(A)M Truck): $30,000 for STEAM summer learning programs in Clayton county and the Westside of Atlanta
  6. Community Teen Coalition: $40,000 for a six-week summer program simulating a college-going experience.
  7. Corners Outreach: $50,000 for summer programing serving children and teens at three locations.
  8. Fugees Family: $50,000 for the Georgia Fugees Academy Charter School that provides intensive summer support in DeKalb county.
  9. Inspiredu: $100,000 to address the digital divide for students across five metro districts.
  10. LaAmistad: $100,000 for the summer learning program, including work to close the digital divide, serving the Latinx community in metro Atlanta.
  11. Latin American Association: $100,000 for the Latino Youth Leadership Academy and Summer Academic Enrichment Program.
  12. Los Niños Primeros: $50,000 for a virtual summer learning program with a primary focus on children who are immigrants and/or Hispanic or Latinx focused on academics, language acquisition and the arts.
  13. Odyssey: $40,000 for a summer learning program with a focus on communities south of I-20.
  14. SEM Link: $20,000 for a STEM summer learning program in South Fulton and the City of Atlanta.
  15. Raising Expectations: $100,000 for summer learning programs in the Westside of Atlanta.

 

Now more than ever, supporting a strong civic ecosystem that includes policy and advocacy partners is essential for the recovery of the metro Atlanta region. Grants awarded for public policy and advocacy include:

  1. Asian Americans Advancing Justice: $50,000 to increase equitable access to COVID-related information, targeting AAPI, immigrant and other communities of color.
  2. Equity Foundation of Georgia: $50,000 to continue efforts to engage LGBTQ people within their local communities.
  3. Georgia Budget and Policy Institute: $50,000 to improve communities throughout Georgia through policy efforts.
  4. Georgia Coalition of the People’s Agenda: $50,000 to increase civic engagement around issues like health, economic and education equity and power mapping.
  5. Georgia Muslim Voter Project: $50,000 for policy and advocacy building in Muslim communities.
  6. Georgia Shift: $50,000 to increase access to civic participation through voting access, education and advocacy.
  7. Georgia STAND-UP: $50,000 for civic engagement and mobilization for communities of color.
  8. New Georgia Project: $50,000 for civic engagement and mobilization for communities of color.
  9. Project South: $50,000 for policy and coalition building to improve access to resources for COVID-19 relief.
  10. Solutions Not Punishment : $50,000 for the completion of the data gathering project, “A Safe Atlanta” to recommend and provide alternatives to policing  in the City of Atlanta.
  11. The Arc: $50,000 for the Grassroots Connectors program that builds trust in rural areas of the state where information and resources for communities and people with disabilities is scarce.
  12. Women Engaged: $50,000 to build power and provide leadership development targeted toward Millennial and Gen Z Black women.
  13. Women on the Rise: $50,000 for civic engagement and organizing work targeting Black women, LGBTQ, gender non-conforming and women with disabilities

 

About United Way of Greater Atlanta

United Way of Greater Atlanta, the largest United Way in the nation, focuses on ensuring that every child in Atlanta has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. The organization invests in more than 200 programs in 13 counties through the Child Well-Being Impact Fund and works to help children succeed in school, improve financial stability of families, provide affordable and accessible healthcare and end homelessness. For more information, visit: unitedwayatlanta.org or Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

Media Contact:

Chad Parker, 404.358.5055
cparker@unitedwayatlanta.org

ATLANTA – April 15, 2021 – United Way of Greater Atlanta and the City of Atlanta announced today that they will reopen the Atlanta COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program from April 15 to Dec. 31 with $15.2 million available for rent, utility and security deposit assistance. Due to federal guidelines, the program will no longer provide mortgage assistance. Through the first round of funding for the program, which was supported by CARES dollars, United Way was able to help 6,069 families and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to stay in their homes.

COVID-19 may be diminishing as a health crisis but it continues to be a full-scale economic and social disaster. Many individuals and families across the City of Atlanta are not yet able to get back on their feet.

Housing instability has been a problem for low-income residents in the City of Atlanta long before the COVID-19 pandemic reached the City of Atlanta. The pandemic has intensified this experience for Atlanta residents, increasing the risk for foreclosure, eviction, and homelessness.

“Housing and economic stability are foundational to child well-being”,  says Milton J. Little, Jr. President and CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta. “Without this, children and families have little chance of moving out of poverty. We are proud to have helped over 6,000 households to-date. It is our hope to extend that assistance to an additional 4,000 households in our next round of funding beginning in mid-April.”

Incorporated City of Atlanta residential renters who have experienced a loss of income because of COVID-19 will be able to receive assistance with the payment of their past due rent, utilities and security deposit dating back to March 13, 2020. Per federal guidelines for this new round of funding, there is no cap on the assistance amount. The average payment is expected to be $3,000. Landlords can apply directly for assistance.

Individuals and families impacted and in need of support will have multiple access points to apply for assistance in both English and Spanish. To apply for assistance and view eligibility requirements and FAQs, options include:

  • Access the client application by visiting www.unitedwayatlanta.org or by clicking here.
  • Visit http://211online.unitedwayatlanta.org/
  • Call 2-1-1 to speak with a live 2-1-1 Community Connection Specialist Hours are limited from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Due to high call volumes, the above listed options are preferred.
  • To sign up for in-person events for application assistance, click here.
Partnering for Health Equity

Local churches are partnering with United Way of Greater Atlanta as part of a faith-based initiative to expand testing, education and other resources for communities of color across South Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties.

Choose Healthy LifeTM (CHL) is a sustainable, scalable, and transferable approach to public health. The initiative partners with Black faith-based organizations to offer education, outreach and free COVID-19 testing, as the church is considered one of the most trusted institutions in community. Read about Choose Healthy Life at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Choose Healthy Life aims to raise awareness and educate the Black community on COVID-19 and other health disparities; and proactively engage the community in a COVID-19 testing campaign to reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.

Learn more about the Choose Healthy LifeTM initiative.

Register for an upcoming COVID-19 testing event.

 

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Upcoming COVID-19 Testing Events
Date of Event Hours of Event Name of Participating Church Church Address
3/14/2021 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Impact Church 2323 Sylvan Road, East Point GA 30344
3/17/2021 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam 560 Fayetteville Rd SE, Atlanta, GA 30316
3/20/2021 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Gateway Restoration Church 4981 Phillips Dr. Forest Park, GA 30297
3/21/2021 9:00 a.m – 1:00 p.m. Impact Church 2323 Sylvan Road, East Point GA 30344
3/23/2021 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Ebenezer Baptist Church 101 Jackson Street NE Atlanta, GA 30312
3/25/2021 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Salem Bible Church 2283 Baker Rd NW Atlanta, Ga 30318
3/27/2021 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Debre Bisrat Saint Gabriel Church 3518 Clarkston Industrial Blvd Clarkston, GA 30021
3/28/2021 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Impact Church 2323 Sylvan Road, East Point GA 30344

 

This story was originally published Feb. 26, 2021, and it has been updated as of March 30, 2021.

 

Rev. Bronson Woods was planning to send 35 people to Ethiopia on behalf of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on March 1, 2020. That date sticks out to him for obvious reasons.

During that trip, the team was honored at the Royal Palace by the first woman elected president of the country, Sahle-Work Zewde. But back home, news of the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the world forced massive shutdowns and self-imposed quarantines by local leaders to stem the spread of the disease COVID-19.

Woods and Ebenezer ultimately halted in-person services at the church in Sweet Auburn—led by Reverend and current Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. While Woods, the Assistant Pastor for Young Adults and Outreach Ministries, couldn’t physically interact with crowds from the former church of pastor and civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he knew the work of the church was just beginning. The pandemic wasn’t going to stop Ebenezer’s ministry.

“By March 1, the pandemic was in full effect, and as soon as it hit, we immediately knew we needed some sort of response,” Woods says. “We were able to get ahold of about 54,000 face masks and hand sanitizer, and in a few short weeks we were able to assemble those to provide that to the community.”

The church started off providing masks and sanitizer, but once testing had expanded, Woods says they were able to connect with a lab that could do COVID testing on their campus starting in early summer 2020.

“Since then, we have been testing every week,” he says. “We developed a relationship with the Fulton County Board of Health, and we now have what we call ‘Testing Tuesdays.’”

Ebenezer Baptist Church tests each Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to this, they’ve partnered with local food banks to provide food to the community as well.

 

Partnering for health equity

Woods’ church has also partnered most recently with United Way of Greater Atlanta as part of a broader faith-based initiative to expand testing, education and other resources for communities of color across South Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties.

Ebony Johnson, director of Place-Based Initiatives for United Way, says this Choose Healthy Life initiative kicked off on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021. Choose Healthy Life was spearheaded in New York City roughly a year ago by Debra Fraser-Howze, who is widely recognized for her leadership work in communities of color regarding public health issues, is a former Senior Vice President of Government and External Affairs at OraSure Technologies and Founder of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. Fraser-Howze is widely recognized for more than three decades of global leadership to communities of color regarding teenage pregnancy, social welfare and HIV and AIDS. She also advised two U.S. Presidents while serving on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

COVID-19 has spread throughout the U.S. and devastated the Black community, and this program is centered around churches in communities of color and their ability to provide vital information as a trusted source in their community.

“I came into the project with the goal of recruiting and onboarding church partners to serve in this initiative and help them identify community health workers to do health education and outreach,” Johnson says. “Our goal with community health workers is to make sure as many as possible come from the church in that community where it’s located. They are going to be extremely important in providing that peer-to-peer trust within the community.”

Choose Healthy Life has testing events in March at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Impact Church in East Point, Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam in Atlanta, Gateway Restoration Church in Forest Park, Salem Bible Church in Atlanta and Debre Bisrat Saint Gabriel Church in Clarkston.

Helping children and families in Greater Atlanta gain access to information and testing is one of the ways we can help address regional disparities and improve conditions in South DeKalb, South Fulton and Clayton Counties. We know that every person whose life we change or positively impact, will go on to change the lives of countless others. When we work together—pooling our resources, our time and energy—our community impact grows exponentially. United, we can do more for our community. This is important work—work that is never over.

But we can all achieve more if we unite for more.

This work is particularly important in “communities of color that are very hesitant to get testing,” Johnson says. Community health workers and trusted members of the church can help clear up misinformation and misconceptions about the virus, testing and, when the time comes, the vaccine.

“People trust people who look like them,” Johnson says. “Historically, the church has always been the cornerstone for the community. Anything and everything you need—information was shared at churches. That was where you got married, other important moments in life—all that happened at church. Faith-based institutions play an important role in the center of the community.”

Woods agrees.

“There’s something about coming to a house of faith,” he says. “It soothes your doubts and calms your fears.

“The pandemic has charged us to get to work, provide resources and be of assistance right now in this time of need. We’re not just testing folks, but we’re educating folks about the pandemic, what the masks are doing and how important these measures are.”

This effort, though, has done a lot to help people buy in to the importance of testing and vaccination, Woods says. Ebenezer took steps to provide pamphlets, have doctors on site to answer questions and the work has paid off.

More people are getting tested, taking advantage of the resources Ebenezer can provide. This is what Johnson and United Way know can happen in other communities where the number of positive test cases have been significant.

“A big part of this that’s really important to us is the equity piece,” she says. “We had a particular drive to have [Choose Healthy Life] grantees come from our Brighter Future communities… Churches represented as part of this initiative are in South Fulton, South DeKalb and Clayton counties. Data has been an important tool, and we continue to use that to make investments where we do.

“I’m really proud that we have an interfaith approach to this work.”

When we Unite for More, everyone can climb. Work this important is never over or done alone. Can children, families and Greater Atlanta communities count on you? Unite for more today.

Melissa says she didn’t know 2-1-1 even existed before taking a job as a Community Connection Specialist just over three years ago.

“I went to Georgia State University, and I had heard of United Way [of Greater Atlanta] in the years prior, but I had no idea that 2-1-1 was a thing and I never knew of the need for something like that,” she says.

Melissa was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the Greater Atlanta area when she was 10 years old. She grew up in Atlanta, a bilingual student who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, blocks away from an organization she would later work for answering dozens of calls daily in service to a community that had once given her so much.

She wanted to use her knowledge to help relate to and empathize with people who would likely be calling her on one of the most difficult days of their life.

“I think for me the biggest factor that helped me a little bit was my background in psychology, and a lot of it has to do with empathy,” she says. “In the beginning, we did a few months of training, and it’s about learning the systems and the information that we need to know to keep our resources current.

“But we have such a wide span of things that we cover.”

The 2-1-1 Contact Center is an information and referral system connecting people to essential services they need—access to food, help paying electrical bills, access to shelter and clothing.

Each call to 2-1-1 is filtered to a trained specialist who provides information on services that align to a person’s specific needs. 2-1-1 is available 24 hours a day to offer assistance online—Melissa is one of the agents who answers live calls during the week.

“We take calls from metro Atlanta, but we also do for Columbus, Augusta, Athens, Macon—we cover a wide range of things, but in the past year the most in-demand thing has been financial help and housing,”she says.

The COVID-19 pandemic over the past 11 months has put an even greater stress on the need for programs such as 2-1-1.

About two weeks into March 2020, cities across the United States began shutting down restaurants, bars, gyms and schools in an attempt to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. The infectious disease, COVID-19, has infected millions, killed hundreds of thousands and has contributed to mass unemployment across Greater Atlanta and the United States.

With multiple COVID-19 vaccines now in the works, and the distribution of those vaccines yet to be determined, there’s still a large amount of stress put on nonprofits, the private sector and government as we look to provide aid to those families in need.

The need has grown, the calls keep pouring in to 2-1-1, but Melissa says it’s important at the end of the day to disconnect and focus on your own mental health.

“In the beginning it was weighing heavy on me,” Melissa says. “You have to find a way to disconnect and manage the stress of calls related to homelessness, suicide or people who are just at the lowest of their low.”

She likes to use aromatherapy, take time to tend to her plants or play with her dog.

“I feel like there’s a couple little things we can do to manage the stress and pull back from it,” she says.

Each year, on Feb. 11 we recognize our 2-1-1 Agents with a National 2-1-1 Day celebration. It’s a time to honor the efforts of the agents in more than 200 locations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The 2-1-1 program started more than two decades ago as “First Call to Help” in Atlanta.

Melissa’s job on the frontlines offering help is to provide necessary resources to those who need it, but she offers so much more.

“There’s some situations where you just really feel for them [callers],” she says. “It’s very easy in that moment when you’re talking to them to forget the script and let people vent.

“Sometimes people are skeptical or embarrassed to call and spill their problems, but a lot of people need help—this pandemic was completely unexpected. It’s all about reassuring them and making them feel like I’m here to help and then give them options and let them know what resources are out there.”

Learn more about 2-1-1 here.

This story was published on Feb. 7, 2021, and it has been updated as of March 30, 2021

 

LaKeta’s phone rings, and she puts on her headset and adjusts her microphone before clicking on the screen of her monitor to answer.

The woman on the other end tells LaKeta, a United Way of Greater Atlanta 2-1-1 Community Connection Specialist, she had been out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The woman had gone to a doctor recently for a check-up. The doctor told her she had cancer.

She was young and she didn’t know what to do next. She wasn’t sure how she could provide for herself, let alone her children.

LaKeta kept the woman on the phone, she provided her with resources she could access in her community. She helped her find access to food, finances and medical help, if needed. But LaKeta said she felt like the woman needed something else, too.

She just needed someone to talk to—someone who could relate to her experience. She needed encouragement.

“We got deep into the call, and it was about 45 minutes long,” she says with a laugh. “I had given her some referrals, and then we just talked for a while. I offered her some words of encouragement. She had children, and so I told her that whenever she felt like she could go no longer to just look at her babies and keep going.”

The phone call stuck with LaKeta because she remembers when she had to make a similar one.

A few years prior, LaKeta’s father needed a double lung transplant. She had cared for him in the days leading up to that surgery, but the illness meant her father needed to be moved into her home for round-the-clock care. He moved in with LaKeta, her husband and young child, who she had been homeschooling.

It was one of the most difficult times of her life, she says, and in the midst of all of this, her family lost their home.

It was a grind daily—calling shelters, which she says she couldn’t find a spot in because she needed to move her entirely family, food pantries and health care providers.

She would do anything to take care of those she loves most. But she couldn’t do it on her own.

The hardest part can sometimes be that first call to help, she says.

“That’s the roadblock that a lot of people run into,” LaKeta says. “It takes humbling yourself.”

LaKeta, an Atlanta native, called United Way’s 2-1-1 where she was connected to resources in her area. The 2-1-1 Contact Center is an information and referral system connecting people to essential services they need—access to food, help paying electrical bills, access to shelter and clothing.

Each call to 2-1-1 is filtered to a trained specialist who provides information on services that align to a person’s specific needs. 2-1-1 resources are available 24 hours a day to offer assistance, with agents taking calls during the week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

2-1-1 gave LaKeta resources she needed during one of the most difficult moments in her life. It would eventually give her something else, though.

In late October 2017, LaKeta took a job working as a 2-1-1 Community Connection Specialist. She went through weeks of training—agents receive a four-week training that takes them through the taxonomy code and all the different verbiage agents use, they have customer service training, call flow quality training and more.

Eventually she moved onto the floor to train with senior agents before being handed off to take her first call on her own.

“You train with them, and they don’t let go of your hand until you have all the tools you need to in order to succeed,” she said. “You’re well prepared, but you may get that nervousness on a live call. But after that first call you get through those nerves and it’s a breeze.”

She says she always tries to make a connection with the person on the other side of that call.

“With every call I get, I try to put myself in their shoes,” she says. “It’s easy for me to do that and get into that mind frame because whatever it is that someone is going to call with, I’ve likely dealt with in some way. You just try to keep that mindset and understand that this is someone’s crisis. They are people, too, and you need to treat them as such.”

Nothing could’ve prepared us for the crisis we’ve faced over the past 11 months, though.

About two weeks into March 2020, cities across the United States began shutting down restaurants, bars, gyms and schools in an attempt to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. The infectious disease, COVID-19, has infected millions, killed hundreds of thousands and has contributed to mass unemployment across Greater Atlanta and the United States.

With multiple COVID-19 vaccines now in the works, and the distribution of those vaccines yet to be determined, there’s still a large amount of stress put on nonprofits, the private sector and government as we look to provide aid to those families in need.

But throughout this health and economic crisis, people like LaKeta continue work to make an impact on lives in Greater Atlanta because we know that every person whose life United Way can help improve will go on to change the lives of countless others. This work is important and work this important is never over. But united, we’ll achieve more.

The need has grown, and the calls keep pouring in to 2-1-1, but LaKeta says she’s taking the opportunity to offer help and encouragement.

“I love to just sit and take my calls,” she says. “The need is greater, and the call volume is high, but it’s not a stressor to me. The only stressor to me is that I can’t save the world.

“But what I try to do personally is give words and hope for encouragement, and that goes a long way—definitely during this pandemic. Giving them a little hope in there, letting them know that it’s OK and will all work out, that has brought me a long way. Why not try to pass it on to someone else?”

The job can be difficult—it can be emotionally demanding. But LaKeta says she takes time to meditate and focus on the positive things in her life. And she’s also thankful for her “2-1-1 Family.”

“I have made personal connections with each one of my colleagues, and we all just motivate each other,” she says. “The leaders in the department actually lead, and I never feel alone or bombarded with work.

“We are a diverse family, learn from one another and are truly caring of each other.”

When we Unite for More, everyone can climb. Work this important is never over or done alone. Can children, families and Greater Atlanta communities count on you? Unite for more today.

The story was published originally in January 2021 and has been updated as of March 30, 2021.

 

Together, can help families today, tomorrow and in the future achieve economic stability.

This is an important component of improving child well-being because children thrive when their families thrive.

United Way has supported families and provided financial tools and resources for over 100 years. Today, our strategy must reflect the context of the infectious disease COVID-19 — a disease that has now killed hundreds of thousands of people and infected millions over the past year.

We know that the COVID pandemic has had a crushing impact on many industries and left millions of Georgians out of work, but it has had a disproportionate impact on the Black community. This extends to employment and wages, too.

Black worker unemployment has been almost twice as high as unemployment for white workers. This will have a lasting impact on household budgets and the ability of families to rebound.

When the Great Recession began in 2007, Black workers’ unemployment rate increased to double digits and remained that high for more than six years.

In comparison, the unemployment rate among white workers never reached double digits during the Great Recession or its recovery. It took more than 10 years for Black workers’ incomes to return to their pre-recession levels.

But even for those who are working, many are working fewer hours or have experience months without income in 2020. Tax refunds have provided an opportunity for low and moderate-income families to accumulate savings.

However, because so many families worked fewer hours in 2020, they earned less and will not have the additional dollars they may have received in the past.

According to the Center for American Progress, families use tax refunds to improve their economic stability:

  • 84% used part of their refund to pay off a debt
  • 61% used part of their refund for child care expenses
  • 33% used part of their refund to purchase or repair a car
  • 47% put part of their refund aside as savings for goals or future expenses

As a community, United Way donors and volunteers have responded to this crisis with generosity.

We have helped thousands of families by packing snacks for kids, delivering meals, donating to food banks, providing rent assistance and increasing access to health services by providing digital technology.

At United Way of Greater Atlanta, we’re focused on the well-being of children, families and communities across our 13-county region. One of our most important areas of work is economic stability.

Helping families and individuals attain financial security is foundational for our community to thrive. We know that every person whose life we change, will go on to change the lives of countless others. And when we work together—pooling our resources, time and energy—our community impact grows exponentially. United, we can do more for our community.

With your help

United, we can help more than 13,000 families build wealth by expanding outreach across our region so that more families are aware that they can get their taxes done for free. We can provide online resources and virtual tax support through our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, along with drop off and limited in-person options during the pandemic.

 $750 ensures that 50 families receive outreach and online tax support. $1,000 would provide financial coaching for 65 families.

We can help more than 2,000 individuals increase their wages and close the skills gap by increasing opportunities for hands-on work experience such as internships and apprenticeships and providing low-wage workers with financial support to secure credentials in high demand careers.

$500 would provide a month of on-the-job training for someone who has been forced to retool and start working in a new industry. $2,500 provides job placement and six months of employment support to enable a young adult or a new parent to be successful in a high-tech job and compete in the marketplace. 

We can help more than 27,000 families secure housing basic needs by ensuring that fundamental elements of life like stable housing, food security and reliable transportation are in place so that families avoid a financial crisis.

$500 can provide 30 days of rent or utility payments for a single mother who has lost her job to help her family avoid eviction.

When we Unite for More, everyone can climb. Work this important is never over or done alone. Can children, families and Greater Atlanta communities count on you? Unite for more today.

This story was published originally on Dec. 2, 2020 and has been updated as of March 30, 2021.

 

Jackson Hayes moved to Atlanta from Charlotte, North Carolina to “get out of his comfort zone,” and pursue his interests in entertainment.

“I’m single and live by myself — of course I’ve got some friends and stuff, and they’re like family,” Jackson says, adjusting the bands of a N95 mask as it shifts down the bridge of his nose. “I dance, sing and act as well, and Atlanta is a melting pot for Black entrepreneurs. If you want to try your hand in the entertainment industry, you want to come here.”

Jackson’s had a day job in health care, though, for the past couple years. His godbrother’s family had been providing care in group homes around Charlotte for about 20 years, but they recently decided to open a branch in Macon.

“I decided to help them with that, and that way it would give me a skillset and allow me to be financially stable,” Jackson says.

He worked in Intensive Family Intervention Services, which he said acted as a “middle point” for a child who had been in the juvenile detention system. They helped connect kids with advocates, teachers, community leaders and therapists—and it was free to families that had insurance.

But then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“We’re paid for by the government, and once there’s no kids, there’s no money,” he says. “We can do Zoom meetings and stuff like that, but that stopped and eventually it left us with no clients.”

He was furloughed from his position. COVID-19, and statewide shutdowns in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the infectious and potentially deadly disease, also put a strain on any possible career moves in the entertainment industry.

Months later, Jackson needed help paying his rent. He had been dipping into his savings, and those funds were starting to get low. He needed help. He found help on a message board for his apartment complex in East Point, he says.

Jackson knew that this would be his best opportunity to get the help he needed.

He showed up with papers tucked into the pockets of an Army green jacket, all of which had been detailed online for him to bring to make the process easy for him, he says.

“I live in a great facility,” Jackson says. “I had been checking out the message board, and I made sure all my bases were covered. I got a fast response, and it was quick and fast and [event coordinators] let me know all the documents I needed.”

Thankfully, Jackson was able to use his phone to look up the website he saw on his community’s message board, review the necessary requirements and then find out all of the documents he needed.

But this can be a barrier for many people, says Tosin Ogunnoiki, marketing specialist for the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation.

I feel like the main barrier is the technology barrier,” Tosin says. “The biggest issue is technology and being able to spread the word about assistance.”

Each situation and reason people need assistance is different, and Tosin says he tries to be

patient and reassuring with each client.

The discussion with clients can often get emotional and tense, he says. That’s understandable.

“I try to be sensitive to [each situation],” he says. “I’ve definitely seen a couple of people come in with eviction notices here, and I think everybody that comes in is scared—a lot of people out there are scared they will lose their home.”

Pamela Hayes—no relation to Jackson— had that same fear. She lives in a South Atlanta neighborhood where she was born and raised. She had gotten a job in the restaurant industry to support her family and small children toward the end of 2019, but after only a few months on the job she heard rumblings of the possible shutdown if the pandemic were to make its way to Georgia.

It “didn’t close down at first,” she said, but her hours were cut back drastically. As the situation became even more dire, the restaurant shut down for good.

“They said it was a temporary thing, and it just lingered on,” Pamela says. “When I lost my job, I applied for unemployment. I applied for that in May, and I was already struggling by then. I didn’t get unemployment until last month [October].

“I had to wait that long, trying and struggling to pay bills. I had called and called the unemployment office for almost 30 days straight.

“It was so much on me at one time.”

But someone directed Pamela to the event hosted by United Way that weekend.

“It was so easy, and they were all so nice to me,” she says.

Both Jackson and Pamela said the process to apply—while seemingly daunting at first—was quick and easy, and they were thankful for the team of workers who assisted them to make sure they were able to get the help they needed.

“I didn’t want to let myself be drowning and set myself all the way back,” Jackson says. “I’m looking for another job right now, but that takes time. This is enough to get me the boost I needed.”

To check your eligibility for assistance through the Atlanta Emergency Housing Assistance Program, click here.

Helping families and individuals attain financial security is foundational for our community to thrive. We know that every person whose life we change, will go on to change the lives of countless others. And when we work together—pooling our resources, time and energy—our community impact grows exponentially. United, we can do more for our community.

When we Unite for More, everyone can climb. Work this important is never over or done alone. Can children, families and Greater Atlanta communities count on you? Unite for more today.