Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Jimmy Lai from Catholic Charities Atlanta prepares to unload food donations for families in need. Since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses in March, the nonprofit has provided food and other services to support clients amid job loss.


Catholic Charities Atlanta continues to provide pandemic relief

By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published September 17, 2020

ATLANTA—The coronavirus pandemic continues to drastically impact low-income families. Catholic Charities Atlanta is one of many organizations supporting them during this time of uncertainty.

In late March, Catholic Charities hosted “drive-by drop-offs,” where food donations were collected and delivered to families in need. In August and September, the nonprofit will have delivered about 1,500 boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to struggling families. Food donations are still needed for clients, but there is also a growing need for rent and utility assistance.

A study by the Aspen Institute found that more than 20 million renters are facing evictions in the United States this month. In Georgia, while many courts have paused in-person eviction proceedings, thousands have been filed in some counties since March.

If you go two or three months without paying your rent, all of a sudden, you have some people with more than $7,000 worth of debt, said Vanessa Russell, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities Atlanta. People who are still not working full time are having trouble making ends meet, said Russell.

Children of a family served by Catholic Charities Atlanta stand outside their home as donations are dropped off from the nonprofit. Food deliveries have been part of the organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in addition to housing counseling.

This is an unusual situation for people and they often don’t know how to manage, she said. For those that do not want to face the debt, many are moving to motels or living in their cars, said Russell.

The Atlanta organization helped about 1,000 people with money received from the CARES Act, Coronavirus Relief Fund. The nonprofit also provides rental counseling, which includes helping families budget, negotiate payments with their landlord and finding additional programs to help them manage debt.

“There’s some hopeful news about employment coming back, which is great,” she said. “But even when you get your job back, it’s not like you instantly are making enough money to catch up. It’s continuing to work with families through this period, while they can get employment and be able to help them work out a plan to catch up.”

Catholic Charities Atlanta is in need of financial contributions to continue helping clients. Food donations are also helpful and there are various ways volunteers can serve.

The moments where Russell feels hope are when the organization is able to concretely help families through tough times.

“Those are the moments—helping clients get back into housing, keeping people from falling out of housing, making sure families have enough food to get through the weekend,” she said.