COVID-19 affecting Millionair Club workers
If you have a well-stocked pantry and you’re able to work from home right now, you are in very good shape to stay safe from the virus. Thousands of people in the Seattle area who may not have homes or may not have stable employment cannot necessarily say the same. I work for Millionair Club Charity, a nonprofit staffing agency that serves people experiencing poverty and homelessness, and our hundreds of workers find themselves in a precarious situation.
The majority of workers on our payroll, over 60% of whom self-identity as unstably housed, rely on wages to survive. For some, the pay helps maintain rent and feed their families. For others, the money is their ticket to escaping homelessness and finding stability in their lives. With the state-ordered ban on non-essential workplaces remaining open, most of our workers’ job opportunities have gone away, and with them, a way out of poverty.
While many of us are scrambling for toilet paper and hand sanitizer, the people we serve may be staring down a return to living outside or being stuck in crowded shelters where they can’t reasonably protect themselves. This isn’t just some temporary scare or a hit to a retirement fund; this pandemic could be life or death for otherwise healthy people. Based on hundreds of conversations and surveys, we know that once a person loses their home, it becomes harder to avoid things like depression, addiction, and loss of dignity. The longer people experience homelessness, the more difficult it is to escape.
One Millionair Club Charity worker, Sabrina, has already been laid off since her employer did not have enough customers to stay open. Sabrina lives in Millionair Club Charity’s apartment building, Kasota, and she’s now concerned about being able to maintain rent moving forward. She says she’s trying to file her taxes and claim unemployment benefits, but the websites are overwhelmed and she can’t get through. Sabrina told me, “I feel like I’m in a crunch and just so frustrated. My gravest fear is becoming homeless. I’m trying to stay hopeful, but with the claims site not working, I just don’t know what to do.” She says that the opportunity to have an apartment at Kasota has been a godsend, and she is hoping that rent will be reduced until we know when this will all end.
Normally, Millionair Club Charity provides a wide range of services to help men and women become ready for work, and that includes a hygiene center, laundry facility, job training workshops, and uniforms (all at no cost to the workers). We also work with partners to provide meals, a vision clinic, and mobile medical/dental vans. Once a person is enrolled, we connect them with appropriate job opportunities in our network of over 700 local employers. That includes everything from food prep and hospitality at Seahawks and Mariners games to landscaping, warehouse work, housekeeping, moving help, and more.
In order to protect our workers and staff during this time, we have had to greatly reduce work opportunities to a select few employers with strict safety protocols and whose operations are of an essential nature. Our job training programs have been suspended, and that is a major loss because some of the courses lead to professional certifications for livable wage jobs. We’re unable to offer the health services or hygiene center at this time, so the hundreds of men and women relying on these fundamental services are more vulnerable than ever. We are doing our part to fight the homelessness crisis in the Puget Sound Area, but this virus could very easily cause the number of homeless individuals to balloon out of control. We all need to do our part to stay healthy and support those in need.
Everyone is making difficult decisions right now, and many of us are taking a significant financial hit as our workplaces are closing their doors. Maybe now more than ever, our society can appreciate the fear and loss of control that homeless men and women face every day. Our organization had to suspend most of its operations and send our staff home, but we are also feeling the weight of closing services to the hundreds of people we serve on a daily basis. Like everyone else, we are determined to make it through and recover with the help of our fellow community members. Many have stepped up and made significant contributions already, but the need is still great. If you would like to help Millionair Club Charity get aid and resources to the people we serve, please consider donating. We have a very limited-time opportunity to get your donations matched when you give at www.upliftnw.org/Match, so please act now if you can.
2515 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98121