A letter from Executive Director Michael Lucas.
In a year of so many challenges, I have seen so much good in the community. I see hope as my daughters return to school and laugh with their friends once again, and I see friendship and respect in our staff meetings and feel a common purpose for our work.
So it is with a great deal of gratitude for my amazing coworkers, Board of Directors, Leadership Council, Steering Committee members, and volunteers that I share AVLF’s 2020 Annual Report. Here it is: https://www.avlf2020.com/
Five years ago we decided to focus on the most fundamental issues of safety and stability through our intimate partner abuse and tenants’ rights work.
As I reviewed the report, I could not help but reflect on just how far AVLF has come – thanks to the support from many of you. Five years ago we decided to focus on the most fundamental issues of safety and stability through our intimate partner abuse and tenants’ rights work. With that focus, we decided to be intentional about going deeper and stronger—deeper into the community, stronger with our services, with a more holistic approach to standing with our clients.
The result of that decision to stay focused, ironically, lead to unprecedented growth. We were ten staff; now we are now a team of forty-eight and a majority people of color. We have become an impassioned and impactful collection of lawyers, social workers, and community advocates. We were, as a staff, largely confined to our office in Peachtree Center; now our staff is spread out and deeply in the community, dealing more directly with trauma – theirs and our clients’ – as they work out of schools, community centers, and directly with clients where they live. We now operate out of twelve satellite offices in addition to our main office—ten in APS schools and two in the Fulton County courthouse.
We entered 2020 with a much greater capacity to pivot to emergency rental assistance and virtual legal services.
Reflecting on all this growth and on the challenges we faced – and met – during the pandemic, I realized that our evolution as an organization truly prepared us to step up and play a meaningful role in our community’s response to the pandemic. We entered 2020 as a large and creative team that could better adapt to changing conditions. We entered 2020 better known and trusted within so many communities that were hit hard during the pandemic. We entered 2020 with a much greater capacity to pivot to emergency rental assistance and virtual legal services.
So when COVID-19 changed the world, we were ready, and from the lived experiences and lessons taught by both our staff and our clients, we knew that people of color – as well as low-income tenants and survivors of intimate partner abuse, specifically – are often more vulnerable in a time of crisis. As the largest provider of holistic legal services to both tenants and survivors in Atlanta, and with a client population that is over 90% percent people of color, we also knew that we had to do more to be part of the community response. As they always do, our amazing team responded with innovation, dedication, and compassion. All the amazing work they did to pivot and help our neighbors during an unprecedented crisis is well chronicled in the Annual Report.
Our decision to lean into our new critical role in the community during the pandemic has come at a cost.
I couldn’t be prouder of the AVLF we have become, but our decision to lean into our new critical role in the community during the pandemic has come at a cost. Morally, we felt we could not pull back on our planned expansion of our courthouse-based tenant clinic, which ended up helping hundreds of tenants avoid displacement during COVID-19. Similarly, our emergency assistance team made the decision to assist the City of Atlanta in distributing emergency rental assistance, and AVLF has been subsidizing the staffing of that effort for some time now. This would have also been the worst time to pull back our community-based advocates who help reach survivors of intimate partner violence who are isolated and trapped with their abusers, something that became more common during the pandemic.
Finally, we had to invest in more self-care for our staff who continue to persevere through sixteen months of incredibly difficult – and sometimes, traumatizing – work. In short, the last sixteen months of stepping up and responding to the crisis have been pretty hard on AVLF. If I am being honest, we could use the help now more than ever.
Our work is not possible without the support of the community, and I thank you for any amount that you can give to our Annual Campaign this year.
We set an ambitious goal of raising $1.2 million for our annual campaign this year, and if we are going to achieve that goal we need your help. Please consider making a gift to AVLF. Or maybe you made a gift earlier in the year and would like more information about becoming a recurring donor. Our work is not possible without the support of the community, and I thank you for any amount that you can give to our Annual Campaign this year.
Reflecting on my first eight months as Executive Director, I realize that one of my most important tasks is a very simple one – say Thank You! So, collectively, I say thank you for caring about the work of AVLF and caring about our exceptional staff.
Want to read other Letters From Leadership? They are an easy way to find out what drives us here at AVLF. You can find them all here.