May 2020
A Message from the Executive Director - In it Together
 
Like everyone else, Just-A-Start jumped into action two months ago as the COVID-19 pandemic closed in on us. How would we continue delivering services? How could we address the COVID-related needs of our residents and students? Would our longer-term program and housing development planning have to be shelved? How could we protect the safety of our staff and community?
 
In short order we answered all these questions. We devised ways to deliver our services and continue our training programs virtually, and onboarded new staff remotely. While our housing renovations were suspended, we have continued to advance the housing development projects in our pipeline. We selected a partner to assist us with our workforce development business plan.
 
And most urgently, we committed ourselves to assisting our residents, students and program participants through the crisis by launching our Safe & Secure Fund. In just eight weeks donors contributed $84,000 to fund small grants - 150 so far - for those who have been hit hardest by the economic impact of the pandemic. We have complemented that by helping tenants and others to secure unemployment compensation and other public benefits, in addition to masks, groceries, and other resources.
 
While we still have a long way to go to get through this crisis, these eight weeks have demonstrated that JAS, our partners, and our residents and students are in this together. That in itself offers hope at a time when hope may feel in short supply.
Covid-19 Updates

Just-A-Start has adapted its programming and operations to a remote format and is fully operational at this time. If you have questions about a particular program or service, please visit the Covid-19 updates page.
"Now I don't have to worry about this month":  Safe & Secure Fund

Since JAS launched the Safe & Secure Fund in March, JAS's donors and partners have contributed $84,000 to provide financial assistance to 150 households (and counting)! When the pandemic hit, so many people in the JAS community were faced with sudden job loss, food insecurity, and health challenges. This extraordinary support from donors meant that families had the urgent resources needed to pay critical bills, stock their pantries, and remain safe at home during this crisis.
 
"I was self-employed and got denied unemployment benefits. As the sole provider in the household, I find myself with zero income. This money was totally unexpected and I am very grateful."   
-   JAS resident
 
JAS will continue accepting applications to the Safe & Secure Fund as long as funds are available. To support a family in your community, please contribute here.

Education & Training Goes Digital

JAS's Education & Training team didn't miss a beat as they transitioned YouthBuild and the Biomedical and Information Technology Careers Programs online. Staff worked quickly and creatively to launch online learning platforms and provide extra support to help students continue their education at home. IT students are troubleshooting technology and learning new systems in real time, while Biomedical and YouthBuild students are receiving at-home chemistry and building kits to keep their skills sharp. To resolve home internet connectivity challenges, JAS partnered with Tech Goes Home to deliver wifi hotspots to students, keeping them connected to their education, fellow students, and supportive team. Now more than ever, staff regularly check in with students and provide support on anything from unemployment applications to food assistance. Students also support one another, frequently gathering in virtual town halls to share experiences, build morale, and learn from each other.
 
The economic crisis brought on by the pandemic has made the importance of a stable, sustaining job even more clear. As the IT Careers Program class prepares to graduate in June, these motivated students are ready for roles in the IT field and are interviewing now. To connect your company with JAS's talent, please contact Korynn Stoyanoff, Manager of Workforce Development, at KorynnStoyanoff@justastart.org.
Families Moving Forward recruitment

JAS has begun recruitment for its new Families Moving Forward program! The program offers three years of individualized support, including coaching and matched savings, to low-income families in Cambridge as they work towards their family's goals in health, housing, finances, education, and work. Families Moving Forward is offered in partnership with the City of Cambridge, Cambridge Family & Children's Service, Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge Housing Authority, CAAS, and Institute for Health and Recovery.
 
Do you know a family that might be interested in the program? Please visit the program's website for more information available in a variety of languages.

Unlocking Financial Opportunities

As more people are faced with financial uncertainties due to the pandemic, the Financial Opportunity Program is still here to provide one-on-one financial coaching on a variety of topics. The program is also offering free tax preparation remotely and in person until July 15.  Program participants work personally with a certified financial counselor, approaching their individual financial goals with confidentiality and compassion. Please reach out to Ian Davis, Financial Opportunity Program Coordinator, for more information about this free service.
 
"I want to express my extreme gratitude to you for the work we have done together. You have very patiently helped me sort out things that have overwhelmed me for years. Getting all those back taxes filed has made grad school possible-- I wouldn't have qualified for financial aid without completing that phase. My goals are in motion!"
Anti-Racism in Practice

To deepen JAS's commitment to equity and inclusion, JAS staff have formed book groups to collectively learn about topics including racism, immigration, fair housing, and more. Over the past several months, staff read "White Fragility" together, meeting regularly to discuss the book and implement anti-racist learnings into their work across departments. After a group convening, staff are now reading "So You Want to Talk About Race?" and "The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America." Stay tuned for upcoming book selections!