From Hazelwood Initiative, publisher of The Homepage
In late July, Hazelwood Initiative opened applications for the Neighborhood Investment Fund COVID-19 grant for the third year in a row. The money for this grant comes from rent paid to the organization and is used to help residents. Applicants could request either gift cards for basic needs or up to $1,000 in rent, mortgage, property tax or utility assistance.
The response was overwhelming. As residents streamed into the Hazelwood Initiative offices to make copies of their ID cards and other necessary documents, they told staff they were struggling.
Tiffany Taulton, Hazelwood Initiative director of outreach and sustainability, said almost half of the 129 applicants requested gift cards. The sheer number of people who came to the office or applied online kept her and intern Leo Deng busy long after the grant closed.
“The entire street would come in within two hours of each other,” Ms. Taulton said, noting that this grant is another approach to the organization’s mission of preventing displacement. Three quarters of the grant money helped cover rent and utility bills that could lead to evictions if unpaid.
“This helps people who aren’t going to be tenants or buy a house from us,” Ms. Taulton said. “They still get a taste of what we do and that also helps us know what they need. A lot of people have been impacted by the rising food prices. People are cutting things out of their diet because food is getting more expensive.”
In addition to paying bills, staff also connected residents with additional resources to help them get caught up, such as the newly revamped PWSA customer assistance program.
Within two weeks, the $50,000 available for the fund was gone. Approximately $50,000 more was requested by applicants. A few generous individuals donated money and gift cards to extend the grant, for which Hazelwood Initiative is deeply grateful.
The Neighborhood Investment Fund grant opened as the pandemic Emergency Rental Assistance Program closed completely. Applications for that program closed on March 31, but it was still processing applications until late July.
Hazelwood Initiative staff and interns worked furiously to help people applying for rent and utility aid through the program over the past year. Through their efforts, approximately $1 million in housing aid went to residents of Greater Hazelwood, Glen Hazel, Greenfield and Homestead.
Saying a fond farewell to our summer interns!
We are sad to see our wonderful summer interns go. Leo Deng and Roman Abels brought a wealth of youthful energy, compassion and diligence to their work at Hazelwood Initiative this summer. They have made a lasting impression on us and on hundreds of residents they phoned and met with. We wish them all the best!