COVID-19: Attack Poverty Serves 25,000 People The Last Three Weeks and Hopes For More Volunteers


Brandon Baca, CEO of Attack Poverty, gives us a look into what the last month has looked like for them during COVID-19, how they have served over 25,000 people in just three weeks, and how they are hoping to move forward with more volunteers.

"Typically in a year we serve anywhere from 20,000 to 25,000 people and that's kind of what we do. . .not only domestically but internationally. So globally we serve that many people over the last three weeks. What we found is through having these distribution points, we served over 25,000 people just in the last three weeks through providing those needed resources like food and supplies and kids packs, things for families to do at home."

Mentioned Resources:

Attack Poverty

Houston Responds COVID-19 Resources


Transcript:

Tommy Rosson:

Hello, this is Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds. Thank you for joining us today. I'm joined by a friend of mine, Brandon Baca of Attack Poverty. Brandon, thank you for joining us today.


Brandon Baca:

Yeah. Awesome. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. You bet. Tell me a little bit about Attack Poverty and what your life has looked like these last three and a half weeks.


Brandon Baca:

So you may or may not know the vision of Attack Poverty is to empower people to attack poverty in their life and community. So day to day we were on the train of strengthening under resource communities through spiritual growth, education, revitalization, basic needs, afterschool programs, adult education, revitalization efforts. We were deep in Harvey recovery still even three years out. So that was our world. I mean, we had a pretty tragic event with our CEO, which kind of really caused us to pause and really evaluate who we are looking at that. And then COVID-19 hit and we really, you know, all of our, as many of us, all of our programs paused. We had to quickly get into action, understand the needs of our community, and we converted all of our resource centers into distribution points.


And what we found was instead of having one place for a bunch of people to come to because of stay at home orders, because of the possibility of this virus spreading in lots of different areas, we wanted to be safe but also continue to care for our community. So we just said, look, let's make many distribution points and keep it as safe as possible, but get as much of the resources that our community needs, out to the community. And so since we have these resource centers that are embedded inside the communities, it just made sense for us to do that.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah, that's great. I know that you have a six, I think you had six, maybe seven. I'll let you talk about that research. So tell us a little bit about that, but also you mentioned that last year you served about 25,000 people and you've done that three and a half weeks. Tell us a little bit about your resource centers and that.


Brandon Baca:

Yeah, so, typically we, you know, in a year we serve anywhere from 20 to 25,000 people and that's kind of what we do. And that's actually what we do, not only domestically but internationally. So globally we serve that many people over the last three weeks. What we found is through having these distribution points, we served over 25,000 people just in the last three weeks through, you know, providing those needed resources like food and supplies and kids packs, things for families to do at home. I mean, we have people walking up, driving up. We're trying to keep it as safe as possible, but it's apparent that the need is real. It's real and it's growing week by week. And so, we have seven points throughout the area and we get requests. Tommy, we get, I don't know, maybe every week for sure.


We get several requests of, Hey, can you come do this here or there? We can talk about that more in a minute. But what I'm thankful is we, we, because we have the staff, because we have the location because we have the relationships within the communities where we serve. We were able to convert and just kind of really get into it pretty quickly. Now I will say that we've had 800, almost 850 volunteers volunteer with us. And most of those volunteers, Tommy, have come from the church, through our church partners. I mean, in times of crisis or disaster, you know, what we've found is the faith community, our faith community just really rises to the occasion. And the church asks, what can we do? How can we help? And it's really been beautiful on relationships to see that happen. Because we're right on the front lines. We get that, they get that. But we also understand that one of the things that we want to do is not just sit back and watch these seasons go by without participating in the way that Jesus would. So the church wants people to be actively involved in their faith and work. We're trying to work on ways to make that happen. And so we're seeing those relationships really deepen and people really respond. It's been amazing.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah. I mean that's, that's great. And that's what we, at least from Houston Responds perspective we talked about all the time is this idea of what we've seen in this season. You know, many nonprofits across greater Houston are going to have to double, triple, quadruple. You have grown. I talked to another organization as well that has from by tenfold during the season. And the only way that's possible is there's a massive gap, whether it be funding, volunteers, leadership, but when the church community steps in and they want to step in during the season and they partner with somebody who knows what they're doing, like attack poverty, they will come out in full force to do that. And so without the local church, you wouldn't have been able to do that. How are you able to deepen those relationships with the local church so that you have those partnerships? How do you serve them in such a way that builds the depth of that so that when you seize it, you can count on?


Brandon Baca:

Well, you know, that's a hard question to ask, but you know, everything revolves around relationship, you know, and telling the truth. That's one thing is we don't know what we're doing, but we're going to do the best we can with what we have and we need you, here's our gaps. Here's what we don't know how to do. Here's the things that we don't have. Here's the capacity that we don't yet have access to. Can you help us? And what we've found is the church is ready to respond in that way. And the reciprocation is the same too. Hey, can you help us get our people involved in these multiple different ways? Absolutely. Let's figure that out together. And what we found is moving from a transactional type of relationship to more of a partnership, it's the way to go.


But that doesn't happen because we have all of our stuff together. That doesn't happen because we've, you know, it just happens because we're telling the truth. We're doing the best we can and we're communicating openly to one another. So one thing we try to do is give people next steps and I think the church is really good at probably the best place at that I've ever seen is kind of going, what's your next step in your faith? What's your next step in community? What's your next step in service? And so we've kind of taken that on too and said, Hey, what's your next step? So every time someone volunteers, they get an email from us that that night or the next day and said, Hey, thanks so much for volunteering with us. What's your next step? Then we're also trying to communicate back to the church that the impact of that volunteer or that those donations are those things. Here's what's happened as a result of you guys stepping up with us. This has been amazing. Here's what's going on. Thank you so much for what you're doing. And not really making it all about our organization or their church, but really about the impact in the community and seeing what's happening around us and the world around us because that's really why we're doing it.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah, no, that's great. And it's, as we talked to nonprofits so many times, we talked about the local church, their focus is to help develop people spiritually and to help them be transformed. And so that's their focus. When we talk about the idea that when you connect with the church, they have this purpose that they exist for. But also they want to serve their community because that's part of their purpose as well. But it's not all of their purpose. And so finding partners that help engage their people in this act of service, helping them love the community that also is aware of their DNA and kinda helped communicate that back. That's why, you know, some nonprofits really connect well with churches to do that. But it's because they live into that part of your DNA, helping the church reach their mission. But also the church is helping you meet your mission and it's a mutually beneficial relationship.


Brandon Baca:

That's absolutely right. And that's where the magic happens, right. And I mean, that's just the kingdom of God at work. You know, we kind of like, we know our giftedness, you know, your giftedness and let's work together as one to to see that. We have this hashtag that we use. It's actually on a mural on one of our buildings. It says #bettertogether, you know? And we just really believe that we're better together.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I know you've grown tenfold, but that's the amazing thing is at least you've been able to serve 10 times more than other people. So, but the amazing thing about y'all at Attack Poverty and like so many nonprofits, y'all aren't any different than some of the other nonprofits in greater Houston. And y'all are so good about sharing your resources and knowledge and just try to be a benefit to everybody. What are some of the things that you still need and you see as a growing need of some of the supply issues and distribution issues or other issues that are out there?


Brandon Baca:

Yeah, so that's a great question. I think we're constantly evaluating that as seems to change week to week, but what we're actually starting to see more and more is the reality that, you know, food has become quite a commodity for the communities where we're serving. And we've gotten great partnerships to help us get food in and out each day. I think we're serving on average maybe 400 to 500 families a day in all of our locations. And so that's been a blessing. People have donated non-perishables. Some of the things that are hard, a little bit more difficult to get our head around and get out quickly or some of those perishable items or we're working on that produce, milk, meat, those kinds of things. But really it's, it's the other kind of staples that you don't think about in times like this that. Maybe you put in a stocking at Christmas but becomes a really hot commodity right now.


It's important to have like a little thing, a hand sanitizer to actually, you know, make sure your kids and you're keeping your hands clean. Soap in your house, toilet paper, maybe, you know, mask or gloves or something like that. But really those are the kinds of things, paper goods, baby food, diapers, these are things that we're finding and what we're looking for. What are the supply channels or supply chains that we can access? Because as we talk, as we talk to grocery stores, they're limiting these things per customer. You know, they have limited quantities, so they want to make sure they regulate that. So we can't go to HEB or Kroger and say, we need a pallet of hand sanitizer. Can you talk to your supplier to get that force? Or they won't do that. They cannot do that.


So we're trying to find alternative suppliers that could get us these larger quantities of items that we can get to residents so that they can be safe in their home. So, I mean, all, all of those kinds of things are really becoming critical to folks at day to day life, you know, you gotta wash clothes, you gotta keep your body clean. You got to take care of your kids and make sure that your youngest and most vulnerable in your home are taken care of. And so, baby food, diapers, hand sanitizer, feminine products, I mean, things we don't like even to talk about toilet paper, stuff like that. They're all items that we're struggling to keep supplied and get to people.


Tommy Rosson:

Well, you know, so much of this is, you know, ministries like yours, you know, you have a certain population that you're used to dealing with and those kinds of things. But during disaster, what we see is so much of the worry is those that are right above that level of need. I will really worry about those families falling back into that need. And during the season, that's just going to happen with as many people that are furloughed. Even if a family has one month's worth of cash reserve, that means they got, you know, 30 days until they're trying to decide, do I pay rent or do I buy food? And so that's, I mean, they're in crisis now because they've got a furlough last week or two weeks ago, or they work at a restaurant and have been able to work from it.


Brandon Baca:

That's, that's what we're seeing. We're seeing, you know, needs to help pay for rent, utilities, things like that that's growing drastically. People that would normally be able to drive to a distribution site to get food. They're calling saying, we don't have money for gas, we can't get there. And so delivery options are becoming quite a thing. More volunteers, I mean, more volunteers to help us deliver a box of food to someone's home is becoming even an increased need for us. You know? We don't want people to get kicked out of their homes. We don't want people to slip deeper into poverty or go from feeling comfortable for the most part to actually, you know, and quite honestly the way we're trying to do this is just trying to be mindful that there are people, we're seeing people that would not normally ask come through our lines and people that would have Tommy volunteered with us are some of the recipients now of the services that we're providing. And so it's really, I wouldn't say it's, it's not an equal playing field, but it's really becoming such a, it's turning the playing field around for us a little bit. And really we're starting to recognize that off my hand, these needs are no borders right now. There are no boundaries here. We're all in the same boat. So we got to figure this out together.


Tommy Rosson:

And that's the thing which is, I know so many people want to try to help. They want to try to figure it out. But that's why it's so critical to work with people who have years and years of experience in doing this. And know what it's like. Know what those relationships are like. You know, there's so much that has been out there about helping but not hurting. And those kinds of things that y'all are in the middle of that it's so critical with your experience, you know, how to deal with these families in a way that respects them but also empowers them.


Brandon Baca:

Yeah. One of the things we're doing that we're trying to model this in a few of our locations where we can, instead of it just being aligned where you just show up, here's the time you actually call ahead and you make a reservation. And so that way we can get a little bit more information about what your needs are so we can tailor some of that to you. We put that to the side. You show up in your time slot. So we reduce lines so people aren't waiting in line. So it doesn't feel uncomfortable. you drive through, we get you what you need. If you have kids, we put things in there for children. If you don't, we don't, you know, it's not just a one stop, you know, one size fits all deal. We're trying to customize that for families as we can.


And that seems to be working really well. People are really responding to that and they're feeling like there's some dignity in the midst of some of those needs. Kind of like what you're saying and that you're right. That's just part of who we are. And so we're really trying to make that happen for folks and it's been beautiful too. So people that are volunteering, the church partnerships that we have, they hear about this and it just really, it kind of just elevates their desire to lean in with us because they see that we're really thinking about the person, not just about the process. And so we keep that relational, I think that also deepens that partnership with our churches because churches are highly relational, you know, walking through, you know, I just was talking to do a missions pastor yesterday.


I said, how are you doing? He's like, wow, thanks for asking. Yeah, it's hard right now. I mean, we had 70 phone calls just yesterday for prayer, for different things like that. And so that really made me think, Oh, how can we partner with you? We have prayer teams. Could we partner with you to pray to take on some of that burden too and see if we can pray with you for some of those things, you know? So that's another example of that mutual benefit for one another as we're kind of going through this together.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah. It's that idea that there's, you know, many parts of the body and they certainly don't look like each other, but yet they're all needed, especially in certain seasons. Certain parts of your body are needed more than in others. And right now, you know, it's just critical for partners like you on the ground. And it's critical for the local church for y'all to have local churches that can support you and vice versa. So I think it's such a beautiful example of what the relationship should be between a nonprofit and churches.


Brandon Baca:

Yeah. That's awesome.


Tommy Rosson:

Any other last words? Well actually one question I did want to ask you is, you know, as you get those phone calls about, you know, Hey, can you come to our area? There's not a whole lot happening here. I'm sure you're getting those phone calls. How do you respond to that question?


Brandon Baca:

You know, typically if we weren't in a crisis, we would say, Hey, let's talk about that. Let's listen. We would go through a whole, you know, quite a bit of a process together to figure that out. But in a crisis, there's only so much we can do. You know, you highlighted 25,000 people in three weeks is, I mean, if we're doing that in all year, I mean we're cramming a lot just in three weeks here. So what we would say is we want to give away the model, so if we can help you train you, come, we'll show you what we're doing, we'll open the playbook. Whatever we can do, we'll come to you to kind of look at that environment. To see, Hey, this is how you could do this here. If it's really about, you know, a distribution point or maybe there's some partnerships that need to be developed locally that we can maybe help make that happen.


Or we can be a bridge to bring some groups together within that local area or neighborhood or apartment complex, wherever that is. We'd love to do that. We know we can't do everything and we know that there's, it's typically contextualized, but we can help, you know, we can kind of share what we're learning, equip and release folks to do what we're doing as you want to care for the cause. Really our heart is that the community's cared for, that people have what they need, that they understand that, Hey, we're here for you. We love you and God has a big plan for you and we don't want you to slip into a place to get into that hole. That you didn't envision you being in. And if you do, we want to offer the ladder to help you get you out. So whatever we can do to help that would be our heart, you know, and specifically around the poor. There are areas that are forgotten. They get pushed aside. And I know the church has a heart for that. I mean, it's just a biblical thing to do and whatever we can do to help the church care for the poor in their area. We absolutely want. So yeah, we'll give that away or help set that up in any way we can.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah. That's awesome. People like Brandon, at Attack Poverty and many others across the country. When we were starting Houston Responds, they have always had the DNA of just give it all away. We'll figure it out in the end. And I love that about them and we try to model that ourselves. So I'm thankful for that example. Right. Anything else you want to add before we say goodbye?


Brandon Baca:

Well, I just want to say I really appreciate Houston Responds and just the desire to bring the church together so much in our world that wants to keep segmented, you know, but as the church comes together, it's really powerful for our communities. So I just want to say thanks for what you guys are doing and how you keep the church engaged in responding to the needs of people, connecting the church to different non profits or agencies out there doing that. So that kind of, we can be better together. You're really positioned so well to do that. I just really appreciate what you guys are doing, so thank you for that.


Tommy Rosson:

No, we're just making the connections. All the other guys are on the ground doing the hard work and we couldn't do it without you. So thank you sir. Church leaders, if you want more videos like this, more resources, we'll include the links in the blog of this video, to Attack Poverty and anything else that we've mentioned in the transcripts as well as on our website, HoustonResponds.org/COVID-19 thank you for joining us today


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