2020 has been one of the hardest years for New York City and other communities around the world. The tragedy of COVID-19 has many consequences: lost lives, lost jobs, lost housing. As a church committed to racial justice, we have been angered, but sadly not surprised, by the disparate impact COVID-19 has had on communities of color. Trinity seeks to end the cycles of mass incarceration and mass homelessness, and COVID has created new challenges. It has also reinforced our fierce determination to help build a more just city.
As one of the oldest institutions in NYC, Trinity has played a role in responding to many challenging moments in the City’s history, from wars to fires, epidemics to 9/11. So once again, we are committed to supporting our city, this time through the COVID crisis and recovery. Indeed, Trinity has nearly tripled its NYC grantmaking in 2020: from $8.5 million in 2019 to $24.4 million in 2020. Here are three key ways we have recently engaged.
A Focus on the Most Vulnerable
With COVID disproportionately impacting those with the least resources, Trinity’s grants support organizations actively working with some of NYC's most vulnerable residents. For example, Trinity provided a $2 million grant to Project Parachute, a collaboration between Enterprise Community Partners, service providers, and landlords, to provide eviction prevention services. Trinity’s funding will be used to assist households that do not qualify for federally funded services due to immigration status. This support will include assistance with rental arrears so they can stay in their homes. Trinity has also made two rounds of funding to support domestic violence survivors with housing and recovery.
Support for Organizations on the Front Lines
Nonprofits have performed heroic work this year by responding to increased need, the health needs of their staff, physical dislocation, and increased costs for cleaning supplies, technology, and other items. In the spring, Trinity provided a round of emergency support funding for our grantees, and we were proud to join other philanthropic funders in seeding the NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund, administered by the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF). Based on that experience and knowing the ongoing challenges nonprofits face, such as delayed or reduced government funding, cancelled fundraising events, and increased expenses, we are partnering again with NFF to establish an $8 million loan fund for Trinity grantees. The fund will provide no-interest loans, as well as technical assistance, to organizations that are actively and directly helping our fellow New Yorkers.
Stepping Up Our Own Advocacy
As a church, Trinity is called to help others, and our grants and loans are one way we do that. Another way is through our own programs and advocacy. This year, we launched and then expanded a grocery program, the Compassion Market, to provide healthy, pre-packaged meals and personal hygiene kits at St. Paul's Chapel and partner locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. We have also united with faith-based organizations across the City to raise our voices for a just reentry system for those leaving Rikers. Our campaign, Faith Communities for Just Reentry, calls on Mayor de Blasio to ensure all those leaving the jails on Rikers Island are provided with identification, COVID testing, and safe housing. These basic needs are an even more pressing issue as COVID's second wave arrives.
Neill Coleman, the Rev. Winnie Varghese, and Bishop Dietsche at the Faith Communities for Just Reentry launch near Rikers Island in July 2020.
Looking ahead toward 2021, we know we must prepare – and work to prevent – a potential eviction tsunami, and we will continue to respond to increased hunger and need. With elections for a new mayor and city council on the horizon, we see this is a crucial moment of opportunity for orienting our city’s future towards equity and justice. Trinity Church Wall Street is committed to uplifting the city we love and the neighbors we serve.
Neill Coleman is the Chief Philanthropy Officer at Trinity Church Wall Street.