The Housing Authority of the City of Atlanta (AH) serves as the largest public housing authority in Georgia, serving nearly 50,000 people. As a lead agency that provides services to a large portion of vulnerable residents, it was of critical importance to enhance services to protect families against the social, health and economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hearing from countless AH participants about the daily struggle to navigate the implications of the pandemic and meet basic needs, AH and collective partners working on the frontlines mobilized resources to provide a comprehensive response that would holistically address the needs of families.
Comprehensive Service Response Plan
The comprehensive service response plan builds on AH’s housing plus services approach, which advances a vision for effective and responsive service. The enhanced strategy was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and informed by monitoring public health information and local agency updates, and having ongoing dialogue with staff, partners and, most importantly, AH participants. The service plan consisted of:
- Case Management Outreach and Assistance – Case managers provided AH-assisted participants with an assessment over the phone to determine and prioritize the needs of the household. Once needs were identified, a service plan was developed, and staff worked to facilitate access to information, services and support. Service coordination included ensuring that participants had access to food, personal care items, internet and digital devices for school-aged children, financial assistance, employment, unemployment benefits and additional supportive care services to help meet essential needs.
- Family Self-Sufficiency Services – In partnership with several community partners, life skills and workforce development training were provided through virtual and dial-in platforms. This enabled participants to obtain new skills and employment based on their personal circumstances.
- Health and Well-Being – To support health and well-being, a variety of information, services and resources were provided based on evidence-based practices and public health measures. Health and safety kits were provided to youth participating in in-person programs. Telehealth services were offered for participants needing access to mental health and primary care services. The “Stronger Together” series provided participants with information on stress management, resilience and self-care.
- Youth Programs – During the first three months of the pandemic (March-May 2020), e-learning and dial-in social and recreational opportunities were provided to help youth engage in meaningful activities. Evidence-based activities and self-paced learning opportunities were provided by local partners. In-person summer camp was available beginning June 2020 and provided youth with academic and life enrichment programs as well as meals. One of the most important programs offered was the “Campus Connection” program provided by the YMCA. This critical program provided youth the opportunity to complete their virtual learning at a YMCA location, providing structured learning environments for participating youth and quality child care for working parents. Services included expanded hours, meals, access to stable internet and electronic devices, and opportunities for social and physical activity.
AH and partner agencies worked to meet urgent needs and solve interconnected issues, leveraging resources to ensure that critical safety net programs were available and accessible. A shared sense of urgency, pre-existing networks, partnership experience and a commitment to protecting and serving families contributed to effectively enhancing services.