LARRP Member Organizations Care for the Most Vulnerable During COVID-19
For our May Spotlight we are highlighting 4 LARRP Member Organizations that are working to house and care for the increased amount of people who are being released from jail and prison daily. This is a monumental task that nearly every member of our community is involved in one way or another, and we want to say how profoundly grateful we are. Let us know if you need any help!
The Center For Living and Learning
CLL has been serving the reentry population through employment and case management services since 2002. CLL utilizes peer guided services with a team that is comprised primarily of former clients, including the executive director.
CLL’s core strengths have always been meeting clients where they are at and allowing for flexible drop-in services as needed. However, with the Covid-19 this has presented the greatest challenge. Clients are used to entering the office and being able to work with any of the staff and that had to be changed.
The Center knew they could not reduce services during this crucial time, but had to find a way quickly to meet the needs. One of the most pressing needs was volunteering to provide transportation to ODR clients leaving the county jails.
The executive director and management team were very proactive in introducing and implementing DHS protocols to maintain partial staff on location. Our response has included flexible scheduling of staff, rotating remote staff to comply with physical distancing and drastically reducing in-person services. In-person services require following all protocols and providing gloves and masks. We have been creative by utilizing outdoor spaces on the balcony and in the parking garage for those in-person services and of course using zoom and conference calls as appropriate.
CLL continues to see the same needs as before the Covid-19 crisis, but now these can be more difficult to navigate. Every day we see recently released clients who report that they either do not have housing or are in unsafe-unhealthy situations. We work to get them into hotels if they are literally on the streets and into alternative living arrangements if necessary. One such was client was able to be helped with the family program at LA Family Housing and received assistance within days.
The Center for Living and Learning has been able to assist a number of clients with partial payments for sober living as they wait for housing program funding to begin and will continue to do so! Those initially resistant to shelters located in recreation centers for the unhoused have now begun reporting that they do feel safe and that it does not feel “like a jail”!
Clients seeking drug treatment upon release have not been able to be placed quickly in the areas desired. We continue to engage and seek treatment beds. Obtaining public benefits is initiated online but sometimes the client has needs that can only be served at the office. We now found out that a DPSS staff member comes to a door at 1pm and we are there with the client ready to take aadvantage of their services!
Challenges around employment include obtaining identification documents including CA state issued identification cards with the DMV closing down. Some services have been able to be conducted online but not all for our population. CLL immediately began reach out to all clients to determine employment status and continues to assist clients with filing for unemployment insurance, stipends etc. We complete online job applications with clients over the phone as well as interview prep and scheduling of interviews. Fortunately, we have been able to place clients in essential jobs while educating them to follow safety protocols.
These are not easy times for our staff or clients.We are “In-person” people but we are doing our best with all of these zoom meetings! We are having hot outdoor meetings on the patio, but keeping a positive mindset because we are doing what we love. Our team is dedicated to this work and continues to serve the reentry population. The clients we serve motivate us daily with their gratitude and feedback. Hearing the words “I don’t know what I would do without you guys.” makes it all worth it.
During this unprecedented time SSG/HOPICS’ efforts highlight the humanity, vulnerability and resiliency of us all through their expanding crisis response efforts to creatively take action to save lives. In addition to SSG/HOPICS continuing to provide essential onsite services- including keeping 2,200 men, women and children off of the street in their interim housing every night- their team has quickly developed ways to provide basic needs and emotional support to hundreds of vulnerable people.
On April 7, 2020 HOPICS launched a Helpline and Distribution Center specifically for their clients to get support with basic food, hygiene and baby needs. As a result, every week HOPICS is delivering hundreds of groceries, meals, diapers, formula, hygiene items and other basic needs to ensure that both sheltered and unsheltered vulnerable people have what they need during this crisis.
HOPICS is delivering masks and other personal protective equipment to people living on the streets to try and mitigate them being infected by COVID-19. Their Multidisciplinary Street Based Engagement team has been focused on identifying street homeless who are considered high risk for contracting COVID-19, and quickly moving them into motels.
Since the end of March HOPICS has moved more than 70 adults at high risk off the streets and into motels. HOPICS is also operating the only current Project Roomkey project in SPA 6 that provides a safe space with wrap around services for high risks adults who are asymptomatic. In addition, SSG/HOPICS is collaborating with the County and other agencies to provide spaces for people to return home to in connection with the early jail release efforts to minimize the spread of coronavirus.
HOPICS is proud of the work their staff is doing as the team demonstrates resiliency though their sacrifice to ensure that during this pandemic the people who are often invisible are not forgotten.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a significantly more difficult landscape for the women and men returning home after incarceration. At Amity Foundation, we have adjusted our services to meet these unprecedented needs. Amity advocates/case managers have been working to ensure that those being released from LA County jails are safely placed into bridge and permanent housing.
Our Amity on Broadway Specialized Treatment for Optimized Programing (STOP) project that normally serves around 2,500 people a year is providing surge capacity services for the 3,500 state releases. With the Division of Rehabilitative Programs working quickly to get us the resources needed, Amity was able to coordinate and mobilize hundreds of additional reentry beds, 21 additional drivers, and distribute over 20,000 sets of PPE’s thus far.
Amity Foundation’s Employment Department is collaborating with the County and City of Los Angeles to reestablish the jobs of our workforce development services. We are involved in local, state and national levels to coordinate, reach out and share best practices to ensure the safe return of thousands. This truly has been a collaborative and heroic effort with the support of many people, organizations and agencies.
Christ Centered Ministries
At Christ-Centered Ministries we exist to serve the most marginalized in our society. Coming home after decades behind bars is always disorienting, now amid COVID-19 the experience is even more unsettling. To make matters worse there is now the trade-off of exchanging the trepidation of getting sick in jail, for another form isolation and a life behind new, invisible bars resulting from COVID-19. Christ-Centered Ministries is seeking to be the calm in the storm for those returning home in this current environment.
Admittedly the situation is stressful for all parties. As a social service agency, we have to fight through our own sense of the unknown and fillings of inadequacy and rise to the challenge to be greater than our fears.
It is in the spirit that CCM has emerged as a leader in the space.
We are expanding our housing efforts by:
- Adding 40 additional beds to our existing 260 beds of service, bringing it to 300 beds.
- Opening a new food distribution site via our Social Enterprise, Manna Feast, to serve food to more members in our community.
- Hiring displaced workers to assist us in serving those in need.
- Creating a new service-line position in our Social Enterprise for successful residents in our programs
- Collaborating with other Community Providers to create a drive-up monthly food distribution day.
Charter School student Luis was released early from Pitchess Detention Center due to Covid-19. He was one credit short of his high school diploma. He completed the final project for his English course via Zoom.
Each student who graduates from Five Keys has a unique story of resilience and Luis is one of them. To be released from jail during a pandemic and to hold on to that final book for his book report, figure out how to log into Zoom and complete his final unit- now that is something!
Because social distancing means we will not be able to host a spring graduation ceremony, Five Keys staff Luis's family celebrated Luis's accomplishment with a graduation parade. All the trappings were there -- cap and gown, cake, noisemakers, and, of course, the hard-earned diploma.