Proactive Foresight in 2020
November 19, 2020
MAM was birthed out of the 1980s oil crisis in Houston. After the Arab embargo of the 70s, oil prices were up and oil was booming. But in the 80s, the oil winds shifted. Oil prices didn’t hit $60 a barrel as projected. They stalled out at $35 and began to sink. By the middle of the decade, Houston had lost nearly a quarter-million jobs and 200,000 homes were vacant. Banks were failing.
It was dire. “People needed help paying rent and buying food. Churches wanted to work together to help the community, so they formed a coalition focused on long-term sustainability for families,” MAM President and CEO Sonja Gee noted about their history.
Nearly forty years later, MAM is still doing this work. They have expanded their services to reach thousands of families each year through rent and utility assistance, educational and career programs, mental health counseling, immigrant services, ESL opportunities, and more.
Since their roots are so intertwined with community hardship and navigating crises, MAM leaders could see the potential devastation of a pandemic headed their way. Far before COVID-19 cases started to multiply in Texas, MAM leadership started planning for COVID-19. This provided them with great continuity and empowered them to move most of their services online before the lockdown began.
Their COVID-19 Response Plan included three main services. First, they have an information and referrals plan that helps them take calls and direct vulnerable people to the best resources available. Second, they have maintained their rent and utility assistance program to ensure people were not evicted during the pandemic. Third, their stability coaching model has provided mental health counseling, employment services to help individuals gain income or regain lost income, and financial coaching to assist families with budgeting during challenging times. This three-pronged programmatic focus during the pandemic has offered a safety net to the community, and their telehealth counseling and online financial coaching classes have seen an increased participation rate. To date, they have served over 3,500 families who were impacted by COVID with financial assistance, and other support services, and thousands more with information and referral services.
While the pandemic has been challenging in several ways, MAM’s proactive approach has helped lessen the pandemic’s impact on their services. Unfortunately, the retail store that provided one-third of their revenue had to close for several weeks. Even though MAM made it possible for people to shop online, people were not spending as much as they normally did. This was a hardship that could have derailed their plans, but MAM received a TMF grant that filled an immediate funding gap, supporting them as they focused on their mission.
“We could only execute our plan at the rate our funding allowed,” Sonja shared. “We had families with urgent needs, and we had to be able to respond quickly, so families were not being evicted and becoming homeless. The grant we received from TMF allowed us to provide our services in a timely manner. The grant also gave us extra time to speak with other donors and granting organizations. TMF helped us provide services seamlessly to our community during this crisis and we are grateful to be in partnership with TMF, because they believe in our mission.”