COVID-19 Response Fund Partner Profile: Alternatives For Girls
United Way for Southeastern Michigan and their partners are committed to ensuring that our region’s most vulnerable families have the support they need to weather the short- and long-term impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. The COVID-19 Community Response Fund allows us to rapidly deploy funds to organizations that are working tirelessly to help individuals and families access food, shelter, health care and other critical resources.
As of April 1, a total of more than $2.65 million has been awarded to more than 80 organizations.
Over the next few months, UWSEM will share stories of how together, they’re helping families in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties weather this crisis. Visit their blog to learn more about how they’re responding.
For more than 30 years, Alternatives for Girls (AFG) has provided vital services to Detroit’s young women and their families. With shelter and housing services, outreach to young women across the city, and educational and afterschool programs, AFG hopes to set young women up for success as they navigate through challenges they face.
With the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), the work has shifted, but the mission has stayed the same.
“Sadly, there are still girls that have nowhere to go during this time,” said Celia Thomas, AFG’s chief operating officer. “If we’re closed, they’ll be in the street or staying with someone that is not a healthy arrangement for them. We’re staying open, and to do that, we’re really stretching our resources.”
Keeping the doors open
As the outbreak began, AFG began initial planning to ensure they could be there for the populations they serve.
“By the week of March 9, we recognized that we were going to need to put our severe weather and other emergency policy into action, said Celia. “The following week, we were going to have staff divided into essential staff that would come into work and work-from-home staff. On March 16, we decided that about 70 percent of staff would work from home and the other 30 percent would need to keep coming in to keep the shelter open to be a crisis hub in the community.”
To remain open as a community hub, staff sought assistance from United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund. According to Celia, this additional funding allowed AFG to keep their shelter open and to pay staff working overtime to support the communities they serve.
“Having United Way funding meant we could enact our emergency policy in a meaningful way,” she said. “It allows us to pay attention to when staff need to work overtime, which is vital when we have short staff in the building. It’s also helped us purchase more cleaning supplies, as we are constantly cleaning and sanitizing our shelter to ensure the health and safety of our girls, as well as basic supplies like toilet paper.”
Among the tools they have, AFG knows that the connections with other nonprofits and other stakeholders are the most powerful to serve our city.
“Nonprofits in the city recognize that it takes a village to do the work, and they should reach out to others to collaborate and support one another,” Celia said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to other agencies if you need help. For example, if someone donates an item that we can’t use, we will gladly pass that item along to other nonprofits who can use it.”
Even in uncertain times, Celia knows that those connections are vital to Detroiters.
“Especially now, use your networks to keep talking to each other and to keep giving and sharing.”
To learn more about Alternatives for Girls, visit AlternativesforGirls.org.