Boots can be an incredible asset. They are great for protecting your feet from heavy items. They are great for extra ankle support while hiking. And they are great for keeping your foot safely secured while horseback riding. But what boots are not great for, is helping you pick yourself up.
We all know the phrase, “Pick yourself up by your bootstraps.” And if you’ve lived in Texas long enough, you’ve probably even been the recipient of such advice. Yet, although catchy, it actually doesn’t do you any good. While it’s meant to set you up for success, it actually ends up keeping you down.
The problem with this metaphorical advice is twofold.
It’s physically impossible to pull yourself up by straps on a boot. Physics won’t let you win – it will favor gravity 100% of the time.
Even if (by some miracle) it actually did work, not everyone has access to boots, or straps on their boots for that matter.
You could argue that all someone needs in order to achieve personal success is grit and determination. As long as you work hard enough and smart enough, you should be able to reach your goals. And if you can’t reach your goals, you’re simply not doing enough.
This advice enforces the narrative that success is achieved solely through an individual’s actions, regardless of resources afforded to them, and with zero help from outside supporters.
But how many of your personal successes were accomplished without the aid of someone advocating in your corner?
A loving parent, a caring teacher, a generous employer, a dedicated coach…
Reaching “success” in all forms of the word, has always been a community effort (regardless of how much money’s in your pocket).
Community Services, Inc.’s mission has been, and continues to be, helping low income families transition out of poverty. From rental assistance, meal provision, transportation, and educational resources, CSI strategically implements programs to assist individuals and families in their moment of need.
Much of the work CSI does is behind the scenes, as they provide the needs and connect the dots for many without public recognition. By providing resources and opportunities to the lower income population, they are offering a greater return on investment for the community as a whole.
To impact a community, you must first see and serve the needs of the individual – and that is exactly what CSI does. Each client that reaches the doors of their organization comes with a distinct set of needs, challenges, and situation, and it is the responsibility and privilege of CSI to meet each client directly where they are at.
They provide the boots, lace the straps, and link arms to help people up.
Their biggest area of service comes in the form of rental assistance. With the funding they accrue, they are able to help families who need a bit of help making ends meet.
And in light of COVID-19, and all its economic fallout, many people are needing a shoulder to lean on.
In order to pay your rent, you have to have a stream of income. In order to have a stream of income, you have to have a job. But what happens when jobs become unavailable, more competitive, and unstable in the midst of a global pandemic?
We are no strangers to the fact that the CoronaVirus has impacted Texas’ economy in a devastating way. In fact, as of May 30th of this year, 2.3 million Texans have filed for unemployment relief since mid-March – that’s about 209,000 Texans each week in the past two and a half months.
This unemployment rate is the worst on record, even higher than Hurricane Harvey and the Great Recession, combined.
With the loss of jobs, and increased financial burdens, many families are struggling to make ends meet. The numbers of families applying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, seeking rental and mortgage assistance have increased dramatically.
The fact of these statistics is more than just an unfortunate reality. It’s actually a reality that has affected our city, our community, and our neighbors.
And as another month rolls around, so does another round of rent, utilities, and grocery bills
that hundreds of our community members are trying to pay. Up until recently, Texas had pushed pause on evictions until May 18th, which bought many renters some relief. However, as we gain more traction into the summer, more and more communities are opening up and removing restrictions.
So where are the people on the financial cliff supposed to turn, as the monthly urgency to pay bills continues, and the threat of eviction more prominent? It is crucial that we work together as a community to help prevent renters from being displaced from their homes.
Community Services, Inc., has not only thought about this problem, but has stepped into the solution.
1. Educational Assistance
As businesses and corporations have been forced to evaluate which jobs and employees are deemed “essential” in the midst of budget cuts – people have been forced to reevaluate if their skills and profession are “essentially viable.”
But what is a person to do when they realize that in order to become “essential” or more qualified in such a competitive job market, they need to pursue a new skill set? The majority of the time, furthering education requires money – and lots of it. But Community Services, Inc. is committed to helping struggling individuals who are seeking certifications to break into new careers and professions through tuition and book assistance.
2. Rental and Utility Assistance
Rental displacement creates ripples that have long lasting communal effects. The struggle to pay rent has become a burdening reality for many, as renters are more likely to be affected by job losses. For this reason, CSI has implemented practices that protect the community. If people get to a point of being evicted because they are behind 90 days on rent, they can’t simply go to another apartment complex because of the denial they’ll face from their tainted rental history.
“We are trying to protect folks prior to that crisis, and catch people in the midst of their current rental issues before the true crisis of homelessness kicks in,” Executive Director, Daniel Edwards Sr. explains.
For years, CSI has assisted low income families with rental assistance, utility assistance, as well as emergency food. And although they have the capacity to pay clients’ rent for 2-3 months, they are unable to pay for late fees. “Some of our biggest needs have been rental assistance as people are trying to catch up on rent. We don’t pay late fees, but if we can coordinate with landlords, it alleviates the concern of people having nowhere to go, and being evicted once moratoriums are lifted,” says Edwards.
The heart of CSI’s mission has never been more evident, than in their response to the immediate needs and crises amidst this pandemic.
1. Platform assistance
Most admirable is their dedication to represent the low-income population by providing a platform on which members of the community can speak and let their voices be heard.
Who better to understand the needs of the community than the community members themselves?
For this reason, CSI holds monthly town hall meetings that allow people in the community the opportunity to talk to the leaders and vote. Not only does this give the low-income population a voice, it also brings awareness to the resources strategically in place for the low-income population.
2. Holistic Assistance
For the convenience and the protection of their clients, CSI has implemented an online system where requests for assistance can be made. From emergency food, tuition and books, rental assistance, transportation, home energy aid, to basic needs like safety and sleep, CSI’s doors are open wide for anyone needing help.
A community needs its individuals, just as our individuals need its community.
And with so many people knocked down by their own inability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, Community Services, Inc. is dedicated to providing the materials, education and resources to get people to their next stage. Through their partnership with Serve Denton, TxDot, Meals on Wheels, Community Transit Services, and many more, they are ripe examples of people being better together.
So if you have boots, put them on, and stand with Community Services, Inc. by following them on Facebook and be a part of the solution in your own community.
And if you don’t have boots, don’t worry about it. Contact Community Services, Inc. and borrow a pair of theirs. And while on loan, they’ll provide you all the necessary resources so you can get a pair yourself.