ADVOCAP, a nonprofit organization creating opportunities for people and communities to reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency, has faced many challenges due to COVID. Their work revolves around one-on-one support for people interested in finding affordable housing, accessing education and job opportunities, and seeking emergency financial assistance. Like others, ADVOCAP has changed their approach to engaging with their clients due to COVID. Meetings are by appointment only and walk-ins are not allowed. When possible, one-on-one ZOOM meetings have been utilized to help individuals but many seeking help are frustrated with the added barriers.
The COVID-19 Green Lake Area Relief Fund, established through the Foundation with initial funding from The McConnell Family Foundation Fund, awarded one of its first grants to ADVOCAP. The grant supported emergency shelter, removing barriers to starting employment, eviction prevention, and basic household needs.
The Green Lake County area has taken a severe hit by COVID, and not just with the increased numbers of cases. Small businesses and agencies are hurting, including the Berlin Food Pantry which had to shut its doors for two weeks due to staff testing positive for COVID. Many people were left with no way to get food, get to doctor’s appointments or service providers.
“These are unprecedented times, where we are seeing a lot of mental health issues, lack of engagement with service providers and case managers. Some people express feeling “trapped” by all the stress of COVID on them and their families – emotionally, physically, and financially.”
-Lu Scheer, Affordable Housing Director for ADVOCAP
Scheer notes that many individuals are struggling to pay rent. They are using part of their government stimulus checks or increased unemployment benefits to pay rent up front but worry about having money for future months. As one of the state’s community Action Agencies, ADVOCAP is alleviating some of that burden by locally administering the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (WRAP) to help households catch up on missed rent payments. This program is funded by money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was passed at the end of March.
Other organizations in the Green Lake area have stepped up to tackle rental assistance, including the Salvation Army. A grant from the COVID-19 Green Lake Area Relief Fund is being used to help individuals and families that did not qualify for WRAP rental assistance. The Salvation Army notes the amount of rental and utility assistance has increased greatly from what they normally see and communicating with their clients and building relationships has been difficult due to in-person visits being eliminated.
The demand for basic need assistance for individuals and families continues to grow. With no end in sight to the pandemic, additional funding for agencies and organizations providing vital services to the community will be necessary. Donors looking to support those struggling in the Green Lake area are encouraged to give to the COVID-19 Green Lake Area Relief Fund, which helps nonprofit organizations in the Green Lake area impacted by the coronavirus.