Represent Justice COVID-19 Relief Fund allowed organizations to support system-impacted community during vulnerable time

The COVID-19 global pandemic has altered our lives significantly, and those already vulnerable to racial, economic and social disparities have felt that impact most intensely.

As we began to see the impact of the pandemic come into view, we at Represent Justice knew the system-impacted community — those currently and formerly-incarcerated, as well as their loved ones — would need our support the most. Folks coming home in the middle of a health crisis would need assistance finding shelter, buying groceries, and staying safe.

So, we asked for your help.

The Represent Justice COVID-19 Relief Fund was created to support organizations serving vulnerable system-impacted communities. Our Represent Justice Surrogates and Ambassadors, many of whom have experienced incarceration during a pandemic, offered first hand experience and insight on the most immediate needs of the community, and we tasked each one with identifying an organization doing the work on the ground that needed support the most.

With the help of your generous donations, the Represent Justice COVID-19 Relief Fund was able to support 12 organizations in providing housing to returning citizens, supplying groceries and PPE to system impacted families, supporting the transition of education and health services to a digital space, and providing mentorship and community to system-impacted individuals.

Here are a few examples of what organizations were able to accomplish thanks to the grant.

Kerry Myers, second from right, and the Louisiana Parole Project helped deliver masks to correctional facilities to keep currently incarcerated people safe from COVID-19.

Louisiana Parole Project
The rising number of compassionate releases due to COVID-19 has created an increase in the number of returning citizens. With funds from the Represent Justice Emergency COVD-19 Relief Fund, the Louisiana Parole Project has been able to open two new houses to accommodate this influx. The funds assisted in providing transportation, PPE, basic necessities, and housing for residents.

To ensure the safety of residents, the Louisiana Parole Project has shifted all in-house programming to digital programming. The organization purchased iPads to allow residents to continue participating in scheduled classes and programs that have now transitioned to online. These classes include financial and banking literacy, stress management, employment skills and technological literacy.

The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth
The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth have used the funding they received from Represent Justice to provide self-care and mental health resources to the system-impacted members of their organization.

The organization has developed an online support system through video calls, social media engagement, and online courses to address the economic, physical, and mental health challenges brought on by COVID-19.

The murders of Ahmaud Aubrey and George Floyd were a brutal reminder of the systemic racism that plagues our criminal legal system. These events triggered trauma for many in the system-impacted community. Through group and one-on-one calls, Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth’s Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN) created a space to acknowledge the trauma experienced by its members and develop strategies around healing.

Topeka K. Sam and the Ladies of Hope Ministries deliver groceries in New York City.

Ladies of Hope Ministries
The Ladies of Hope Ministries have taken a three-pronged approach to meeting the critical needs of their community. Firstly, the organization invested in tablets that have allowed residents to continue to have access to educational and vocational programing as well as treatment services. Secondly, LOHM has created a delivery service that brings essential items to the front doors of members in order to help meet their emergency food, shelter, clothing and medical needs. Lastly, the funds have supported the operation of the Hope House located in the Bronx that offers emergency shelter to women and girls who have been released from prison and jail.

But, the work isn’t over. The fearless leaders at Ladies of Hope Ministries, Louisiana Parole Project, Campaign For Fair Sentencing of Youth — like so many others — work tirelessly each day to meet the needs of those most vulnerable in their communities. As we continue to adapt to life in the COVID-19 era, those system-impacted leaders are fighting to make sure our currently and formerly-incarcerated loved ones aren’t left in the dark.

You can donate to support their efforts here.