While businesses around the city, state and nation close their doors and “Shelter in Place,” community-based organizations like Brotherhood Crusade, YWCA of Greater Los Angeles, the Jenesse Center for battered women, and other non-profits remain open, operating and serving a community that was already in desperate need of resources, long before COVID-19.
Charisse Bremond-Weaver, president of the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade, has been “Sheltered in Office” ever since Mayor Garcetti and Governor Newsom announced the “Stay at Home” order on March 19, 2020. “Our doors remain open, providing the essential services that our community needs. We have a responsibility to the people we serve to continue operating. Our kids, our seniors, our community have always depended on us. From the Watts Rebellion, through the Rodney King Trial, through the Baldwin Hills Fires, the Northridge Earthquake and now, through COVID-19, the Brotherhood has always been a trusted resource within the community that our people count on.”
These sentiments are echoed from Sharon Shelton, vice president of Empowerment Services for the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles. “We must continue to operate through these most challenging of times. The programs we operate were essential before this pandemic, and while we have had to adjust our operations, these services remain essential to the people of South Los Angeles.”
The YWCA of Greater Los Angeles has four programs, which primarily serve South L.A. These programs are: 1) Workforce Development, 2) Child Development, 3) Rape and Domestic Violence and 4) Senior Support Services.
“All of these programs have been in place before the coronavirus pandemic. But today, these services are even more essential than before,” stated Shelton. The YWCA provides career training, provides on-line customer service training as well as a variety of computer skills training courses. However, with people losing their jobs, being laid off or furloughed, there is an even higher demand for people to get new and updated training, that when they were working, they did not have time to take the courses.”
Shelton also explains that while their child care programs have closed because of COVID-19, the students in the workforce programs still need childcare services. Furthermore, “over 75% of the students who were in our child care programs relied on us for daily meals, she said.” “We provided them with breakfast, lunch and a snack every day. We have had to continue providing that service to our children because we want to ensure that they are receiving the meals they need.”
These meals are not only for the children, but the YWCA also provides healthy meals to the senior citizens in the community. These are not just meals; they are healthy and well-balanced dishes. Low sugar, low sodium, but still tasty enough for people to want to eat and enjoy. Sharon also explains, “our daily meal programs, when we were open every day, provided the social support services and human interaction that seniors need. Now, they have to “Shelter in Place” because they are the most vulnerable. But, the YWCA has to make sure, via electronic field trips, and telephonic interaction, that these seniors don’t remain isolated and/or unattended to.
The Brotherhood Crusade finds themselves faced with many of the same challenges as the YWCA, but serve a different group. “One of our key programs serves over 400 young boys of color between the ages of 16 and 22. We were mentoring and working with these young men to develop their social skills, provided them with job training and resources they will need to remain productive citizens in our community and within society,” stated Bremond-Weaver.
“These services cannot stop. In many cases, we are the most stable, trusted and relied upon element of their lives, and they will learn critical coping skills as they navigate through this pandemic. They rely on us, in many instances, their families rely on us as well; not only for training, but for life-services, from meals to medicine to other services that far too many people take for granted. From the first days of this pandemic, our board of directors gave us the mandate to be there, be available and service our community. From our Board Chairman Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., to my father, Walter Bremond, who founded The Brotherhood, we have always been there to serve our community and our people and this will never stop,” she said.
Bremond-Weaver says that while The Brotherhood has an obligation to remain open and provide services to the community, this would not be possible without the support of so many of their corporate partners who have stepped up during these most critical of times. “We would not be able to keep our doors open and provide services to the community if it were not for the emergency support we’ve received from the James Irvine Foundation, The California Wellness Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, Aids Healthcare Foundation, Weingart Foundation, The California Endowment, Westfield, CAM Foundation, Sandra Evers Manly, Wells Fargo, SoCalGas, Liberty Hill Foundation, and California Community Foundation. These foundations and companies’ support have been critical for ensuring that this community and the residents we serve have whatever is needed and necessary to ensure that we survive through these difficult times”.
Cynthia Heard, vice president of Business Development and Communications for the YWCA, believes that COVID-19 or no COVID-19, the obligation of services never goes away. “The YWCA GLA always leads and answers to the call-to-action. There is no time for posturing when lives are at stake. The COVID-19 pandemic that we, as a nation, are facing today, is magnified in the communities that the YWCA GLA serves. Thus, at-risk communities that are disenfranchised and clearly marginalized are always disproportionate to the masses and have a severe lack of access to essential services. On a daily basis, the YWCA GLA continues to be there for the needs of our at-risk communities, both pre and post COVID-19.”
Local families pick up groceries from YWCA of Greater Los Angeles. (Courtesy Photo)
Beyond basic needs, like food and shelter; these times are tough on many residents within the community mentally as well. The YWCA provides counseling services and says that during these stressful times, their 24-hour rape and domestic abuse hotline is a critical part of providing services within the community. “Our program provides counseling for those who are victims of rape and sexual assault. But since COVID-19, we have had to expand our services to include domestic violence and partner with the Jenesse Center to provide additional services for women through these times,” explains Shelton. “We are here for the women in this community and throughout the region, anyone who is a victim and needs help should feel free to call the YWCA Rape/Sexual Assault Hotline anytime, day or night, the number is (877) 943-5778.
“Police officers, fire fighters, doctors and nurses are certainly first responders and we should never forget or ignore their sacrifices. But we should also be mindful that those operating food banks, providing job placement, delivering meals to the elderly and children alike, and all of those organizations that are providing services during the previous worst of times, are still on the front lines during COVID-19 and will still be responding each and every day, tragedy or not.”