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The Unspoken Gap in Social Services

Hey Y’all!

Happy to report that, to date, all checks have been delivered to our neighbors who’ve received support from The Wellness Collective! We are providing continued support to ensure their stability. All is well. As of today, we have collectively aided 12 families in their most crucial time of need. However, something interesting happened during this last fundraising effort; something that has been unspoken for a long time and I'd like to address here.

During this fundraiser where we helped 4 families avoid homelessness, I decided to reach into my professional networks filled with social workers, therapists, housing professionals and nonprofit go-tos. Some of them were very kind and generous with their giving. Others were generous with their suggestions for seeking support from our long-standing institutions, such as the Urban League, Catholic Charities, and the like.

Being a social worker myself, of course these were first thoughts of mine as well. Being a practicing social worker for over 10 years meant also that it was no surprise to me that all of these families have tried the traditional route to no avail. This question of "why don't you try [insert organization],” hit me as a bit strange - particularly because of who it was coming from. My thought was, “Surely you all know that we tried that already?"

The reality is that the agencies and organizations that we have in place for such emergencies are either perpetually tapped out of their resources or the person/people in need don't qualify on paper for the support dictated in the guidelines of these organizations. Or[!] the need is too immediate and the agencies don't have the capacity for immediate turnaround.

It makes sense, doesn't it? The need is great. The need is so great that I don't think any of us have really looked directly at the totality of it simply because it's overwhelming. At least it is overwhelming for any agency to take on.

The community is a different story, entirely.

When I approached community members about support for their fellow neighbors, it was without question or hesitation that they poured from their excess and encouraged their loved ones to do the same. They valued the lives of others the same way that we all want our lives to be valued. This intentional giving and support has inadvertently done something beautiful - it's brought us together. People who were strangers are suddenly invested in one another. People receiving support enthusiastically asking to volunteer with The Wellness Collective so that they may bless others the way that they have been. There is no red tape, no delays. Only us. Only community doing the amazing work of people-centered revitalization all on our own.

On the flip side, when speaking to folks who are intimately familiar with agency support through their work or education, what made the most sense was tapping into our available agencies for these earmarked resources. They also, I believe, wanted the best for these families, and believed that the agencies would be the most efficient and successful way to achieve that.

I think that it is about time that we are honest about the shortcomings of our social safety net. There are major limitations to what our institutional supports venture to do to help our communities.

That is why we created The Wellness Collective. We are neighbors helping neighbors through major life challenges by simply pouring from our excess. When the agencies fall short of aid or turn our neighbors away because they don't meet certain guidelines, our neighbors and their needs do not cease to exist. Their struggles aren't magically rectified and often times, the lack of support leads to steep declines into rock bottom - or worse.

So, as I reflect on how beautiful this experience has been - helping families come back together, keeping our flesh and blood off of the street, saving generations from strife - I want to acknowledge that it truly does take a village. Though the agencies are a huge help, it is important that we don't step back from being good neighbors simply because there is an agency that might be able to help. Often times, they cannot. It's on us to be good neighbors. Over time, I would like to explore those limitations of traditional agencies and where it leaves us as a society in a series I’ll call #TheSocialSafetyNetGap.

Become a Contributor of The Wellness Collective and help us turn community suffering into a thing of the past!

Until next time!

-- Shanon Williams, Founder


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