North Carolina groups respond to rising COVID-19 mutual aid and support needs

Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality offering up to $25,000 in emergency support

By Matt Comer (he/him/his) | Charlotte Pride Communications Director

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Organizations and community members across the state of North Carolina are responding to a surging rise in the number of people needing emergency financial assistance in the face of shutdowns and employment losses amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Many are also offering support in the form of digital connection and volunteer action.

Among the largest regional LGBTQ support efforts announced so far has been the Campaign for Southern Equality’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants.

The Asheville, N.C.-based advocacy group is committing $25,000 toward immediate emergency financial assistance, with $10,000 set aside for individuals, $7,500 for nonprofits community organizations, and another $7,500 for direct service providers.

“In times of crisis, we know that LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities are at greater risk of experiencing increased disparities,” the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said in a release. “We’re hopeful that this new infusion of funding to support individuals, families, and grassroots activists will be one way to provide immediate relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Southern Equality Fund has always been about responding to our community’s urgent needs while investing in the next generation of Southern LGBTQ organizers, and that’s what’s at the core of this COVID-19 grant round, too: Helping people who are hurting and encouraging innovation for grassroots action that makes a difference.”

Grants of up to $100 are available for individuals and families, with grants of up to $500 available to community organizations. The Campaign’s staff will determine at least three grants to go toward direct service providers.

Just 14 hours after their initiative was announced on Wednesday, March 25, the Campaign quickly received 100 applications for individual and family support, maxing out the $10,000 they had set aside.

“We are processing those applications now, which will expend the $10,000 we had dedicated for these grants,” the Campaign said in an announcement. “We’ve created a fast-growing waiting list. We will continue to accept applications for Emergency Assistance Grants for the waiting list.”

You can find more information about the emergency assistance fund directly from the Campaign for Southern Equality.

Mutual Aid Networks & Efforts Flourish

It can be hard to fully understand and respond to the speed at which huge societal changes are occurring because of COVID-19. Daily and hourly updates and new guidance from government agencies are making it difficult for many institutions and organizations to switch gears or plan and implement responses.

The pressure is on for organizations that usually offer emergency financial assistance, even in the face of many utility companies’ announcements that they are suspending power or water cut-offs.

But with so many people suddenly out of work, there’s just not enough infrastructure or resources to go around from usual assistance organizations.

The answer? Mutual aid.

Friends, neighbors, and community members are banding together to solicit resources and support, offer emergency supplies and resources, and even collect donations for distribution to those in need.

The New York Times‘ opinion writer Charlie Warzel wrote this week about one such mutual aid network that sprung up in Boston:

When it became clear that the coronavirus pandemic was grinding life in the Boston area to a halt, Hannah Freedman, 25, a community organizer, and her three friends, Sophia Grogan, 24, Miriam Priven, 24, and Anna Kaplan, 25, decided to take action. How could they help college students suddenly asked to leave their dorms, perhaps with no way to get home? What about their elderly neighbors for whom getting groceries is dangerous?

From their self-imposed quarantines, the four people opened up a Google document and started brainstorming. They put information from the local health department and city government in one central document. Then, they began to build the network out by (safely) going out into their neighborhoods and collecting phone numbers. They used the numbers to create neighborhood pods, which include group text chains and links to the online resources.

The organizers then made a form for people to list their needs and a spreadsheet to collect offerings from people who wanted to donate. They also set up a Gmail address for general questions and a hotline for those who wanted to speak to somebody in person with urgent needs or concerns.

Just one week later, more than 700 people have posted donations and there are 83 active neighborhood pods. Over 120 people signed up as neighborhood leaders, canvassing their streets and creating WhatsApp text chains. While they’re not certain on numbers, the project has connected thousands in Medford and Somerville, north of Boston.

Mutual aid networks and resources have flourished in Charlotte and across the state.

Here are just a few of the many mutual aid and community resources and networks:

Know of other local Charlotte mutual aid networks or other resources? Send them to media@charlottepride.org and we’ll add them to this list!


ABOUT THE WRITER

Matt Comer (he/him/his) is the communications director of Charlotte Pride, where he has worked or volunteered since 2008. Matt previously worked as editor of a local LGBTQ news publication from 2007-2015.


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