Adapting Fast: Our Take on the “New Normal”

ASHLEIGH STARNES | September 29, 2020

COVID-19 has changed so much about our everyday reality. Here are six ways AVLF has transformed in response.

When the COVID-19 crisis began, everything changed. Our physical offices closed, our staff went full-remote, and we went into high-gear transforming our programs into all-virtual services.

As the crisis has evolved, we’ve asked ourselves: what are Atlanta families’ most urgent needs? And how can we step up to help?

Here’s a rundown of our new normal.

1. Survivors of intimate partner abuse face new challenges — and we’re supporting them along the way.

While intimate partner abuse has been on the rise throughout the pandemic, our services are constantly adapting to the ever-changing landscape. 

Our staff at the Safe Families Office, along with our friends at Partnership Against Domestic Violence, are helping survivors get the legal and social services they need to achieve safety and stability — without having to risk coming into the courthouse.

Our attorney volunteers have been hopping on Zoom calls to stand with survivors during their hearings. Whether it’s for a custody dispute or a protective order extension, our staff and volunteers are supporting survivors through the “new normal” of virtual hearings. 

2. We’re responding in real-time to the housing crisis, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

From the court closures to the CDC’s recent eviction ban, the landscape of landlord-tenant proceedings has been in constant flux. Throughout the pandemic, thousands of Atlantans have been served with eviction papers, and the backlog of cases keeps the pressure mounting.

We increased our hours at the Housing Court Assistance Center in the Fulton County Courthouse, so that either remotely or in person, tenants can get real-time help filing an Answer. Our HCAC staff help tenants understand the complicated paperwork — a crucial service when one mistake can mean a default judgment against the tenant.

We’ve also trained a team of volunteers to help negotiate with our clients’ landlords, helping prevent evictions and set up payment plans for tenants. Our Saturday Lawyer Program continues to run fully remotely, and our Standing with Our Neighbors program continues their neighborhood outreach, helping Atlanta tenants understand their rights and the resources we can offer.

3. We’re collaborating with community partners in new ways.

Collaboration is one of our core values at AVLF — and it’s never been as important as it is now. In the last six months, we’ve come together with dozens of our community partners to effectively respond to the challenges COVID-19 presents.

Our Standing with Survivors team, for example, has been working tirelessly with our friends at the @Promise Center to provide survivors of intimate partner abuse with emergency help, like a hotel stay or financial assistance. And our social workers have been working with Dress for Success: Atlanta, who has been providing survivors with useful employment tips and interview-appropriate clothing — all no contact! — helping them feel confident and reassured during their interviews. 

Each of our programs has been in constant collaboration with our community partners throughout the crisis. We’re making sure our clients have access to as many resources as possible — even beyond the courtroom.

4. To date, we’ve provided over $828,000 in direct emergency financial assistance.

Perhaps the most dramatic impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been the massive rates of unemployment. For families who were already living paycheck to paycheck, the pandemic wreaked havoc on the stability of many Atlanta communities. 

With lost income, families have been struggling to pay rent, to keep their lights on, and to provide basic necessities for their children. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, we dramatically expanded our capacity to provide emergency financial assistance to Atlanta families in crisis.

You can read more about this effort in the recent Letter from Leadership from Sonya Humphries.

5. Funders have stepped in to help.

The following funders stepped up to help us respond to this unprecedented crisis. They’ve helped us keep our doors open, recruit and train volunteers, and get the word out about our services. 

Anonymous • Anonymous CFGA Donor Advised Fund • Abreu Charitable Trust • Annie E. Casey Foundation • AEC Trust • APS Caregivers • Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation • Bobbie Bailey Foundation • Bank of America Foundation • CFGA SPARK Opportunity Donor Advised Fund • City of Atlanta • Criminal Justice Coordinating Council • Cousins Foundation • Georgia Bar Foundation • Glenn Family Foundation • Humana • Ida Alice Ryan Foundation • Kaiser Permanente Foundation • MailChimp • Morgens West Family Foundation • Sartain Lanier Family Foundation • Stadium Neighborhoods Community Trust • United Way of Greater Atlanta/Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response Fund • United Way of Greater Atlanta • Westside Future Fund • Wells Fargo • RentPath Gives Back

6. For now, all of our in-person events have been cancelled.

As a nonprofit, we rely heavily on community support to keep us running. For the sake of everyone’s health and safety, we’ve had to cancel our in-person fundraising events indefinitely — which means that our fundraising has become much more challenging.

AVLF relies on people like you to fund our crucial community programs. We hope you’ll consider joining us as a monthly donor at any amount.

Please consider making a contribution to our work today.

Ashleigh Starnes

Communications Manager 

As AVLF’s Communications Manager, Ashleigh works in website content development, social media outreach, and various other forms of communication with our clients, volunteers, and supporters.

Ashleigh is ever-eager to share the remarkable stories of our work, and the impact of AVLF’s staff and volunteers on our community.

Before joining AVLF, Ashleigh was a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey. She holds a BA in English and Linguistics from the University of Georgia. She is also a performance artist, and can occasionally be seen performing movement pieces, poetry, and combinations of the two around Atlanta and beyond.

Check out more from this author.