Our clients at Pontiac’s Centro Multicultural La Familia have been requesting financial assistance to focus on their other needs. They need to have a roof over their head, the food they need, and hopefully their children’s resources when they go back to school. Their children need technology, either a Chromebook or even a cell phone, and may need to learn how to use it to get their homework assignments done.
One of the biggest concerns right now is rental assistance. We got some funding from several groups and foundations, allowing us to provide rental and utility assistance. We might help with car repairs or work clothes to enable clients to go to work, too. We’re also helping with transportation needs, like gas cards, so they can either go to work or go to purchase food.
The clients that are not eligible for unemployment are the ones that are struggling the most. They are the ones who we’re helping more with rental assistance. A lot of them are trying to decide, “do I pay for the rent, or do I pay for food?” Thank God right now, we have connected them to food supplies, so they aren’t struggling with that question.
Through our collaboration with Lighthouse, we provide relevant food, culturally speaking, to our clients. One day, we put together 250 boxes, and we filled those boxes with fresh fruit and vegetables. Our staff may also go out to deliver some of those food boxes to the clients in the community. We see that the need seems to be increasing.
With our small number of staff, it is a challenge to put together 250 food boxes, but it’s even more challenging to have to deliver them too when there are not enough volunteers. Sometimes we do not have enough people to help, which is one of the challenges we’re having right now.
Many of our clients are still wondering what will happen when their children go back to school — if they don’t go back to school in person, and they have to work from home. Many of the parents struggle with language barriers, so they don’t know how they’re going to help their children.
If children do not have a tutor, parents do not feel that they can help their children with their homework. Not only because of the language barrier but also because the educational system here is different compared to their home country. That is something that also concerns them, and without the financial assistance, that’s going to be even more challenging for them.
We are starting a volunteer tutoring and mentoring program to help these families and children. Hopefully, as they go back to school and get homework assignments, we will connect the children with some mentors that can assist them in subject matters like math or science or whatever subject they need. We hope we can continue to help them out and be in communication with their schools, who most likely are also going to be providing some support.
We were able to participate with the schools when they were giving them Chromebooks last spring to do assignments at home. So I think most of our clients’ children got a Chromebook that allows them to work from home, and that will help them when they do homework.
We also provide emotional support and mental health services, and right now, I think it has been stressful for everyone. There are resources available, but families do not always reach out. It’s challenging to provide information only using English-speaking media, so we encourage people to know that there are other sources of information besides those used to.
And in our case, we want to make sure that we do not only help the Latino community — we’re also here to help the African American community, which is the largest in Pontiac, and other ethnic communities that may not have a place where they can go and that understands their culture. We are multicultural, and our community is quite diverse. Centro wants to be able to make a difference in their lives by providing culturally competent services.
Dr. Sonia Acosta is the president and CEO of Centro Multicultural La Familia, a Pontiac-based nonprofit that takes a holistic approach to assist the community with social support services and mental health services in a bilingual mode. See more leaders' stories in our Nonprofit Journal Project, an initiative inviting nonprofit leaders across Metro Detroit to contribute their thoughts via journal entries on how COVID-19 is impacting the nonprofit sector--and how they are innovating. This series is made possible with the generous support of our partners, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Co.ACT.