At the outset of the now-ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, over a dozen chapters, branches, and affiliate organizations of ACORN International issued a global call for the social protection of low-income families and individuals. The collective call urged a global response and for a guarantee of social justice from every national state by cancelling rent debt, protecting renters from eviction, and guaranteeing a minimum crisis income for all families in need.
ACORN continues to call upon us to imagine forms of global social protection. In this time when the costs of the next pandemics and the climate crisis accumulate on a global scale, social protection should be thought globally as well.
Across the globe, ACORN International chapters, branches, and affiliate organizations mobilized members for mutual support, health and safety, and member defense.
The first cases of COVID-19 in India were reported on 30 January 2020 and, like much of the rest of the globe, the country was in lockdown by the end of March. The impact of the nationwide lockdown was a migrant crisis that began to unfold as restrictions on economic activity meant that a majority of the migrant workers in cities, especially daily wage earners, were rendered jobless overnight.
In Delhi, Janpahal mobilized to distribute dry rations, establish community kitchens, and provide isolation centers for those in need. The organization’s efforts included providing free Covid tests, safety gear, medicines, masks, sanitizer and other essential items. Community kitchens served 4,000 industrial workers per day in addition to lunches and dinners served in 20 centers for unhoused individuals. Finally, Janpahal also established two isolation centers in Dwarka for houseless man and women.
In Mumbai, the Dharavi Project is an initiative of the ACORN Foundation and Women’s Research Action Group (WRAG) for the welfare of rag pickers, waste collectors, and their families. The Dharavi Project’s Joint pandemic response included the distribution of meals, dry rations, and hygiene products. In addition, an ACORN Community Center provides an atmosphere that is supportive to childhood development and enables healthy socio-emotional and educational skills.
In Peru, ACORN is supporting the National Ministry of Health’s efforts to reach maximum rates of vaccination through community promotion activities and sponsored Health Campaigns. In communities such as San Juan de Lurigancho in Lima, ACORN cosponsored community health events to promote vaccination, community health care, and mental health care.
In Honduras, communities quickly adopted strict social distancing and sanitary measures that helped to limit the spread of COVID-19. However, like many countries, the most vulnerable areas were the most impacted by the threats of the virus. ACORN Honduras provided support for members to make hospital and doctor visits; carried out education and prevention campaigns; and strengthened the culture of wearing masks, hand washing, and using hand sanitizer.
ULU LOCAL 100
ACORN affiliate, United Labor Unions Local 100 distributed over 10,000 N95 masks and other safety equipment to its members in Little Rock, Arkansas; Dallas, Texas; and New Orleans, Louisiana. The Local 100 membership was able to negotiate wage increases in nursing homes, Head Start centers, and school districts. Throughout the pandemic, Local 100 pushed for worksites to adhere to CDC recommendations and OSHA regulations and ensured that members input was included in worksite vaccination plans.
ACORN Canada stood strong in the face of the pandemic and members coast to coast, fought and prevented a slew of evictions. Members won strong tenant protections across provinces such as a rent freeze in Ontario, a first ever rent cap (which has been further extended) as well as a ban on renovictions in Nova Scotia, a rent supplement in British Columbia, among others.
ACORN members also secured important gains across different cities – in Toronto, members won a rent grant program to help tenants facing evictions due to accumulated rental arrears; in Hamilton and Ottawa – members won changes to the bylaw so that tenants can have access to healthy homes, especially during the pandemic.
This was also the time when a lot of new evidence was produced to investigate the impact of the pandemic on low- and moderate-income people. Nation-wide surveys and testimonies of ACORN members demonstrated the status of tenants during the pandemic as well as how the lack of access to fair banking and affordable and high-speed internet was impacting the most vulnerable.
Some reports that ACORN Canada released:
CAMEROON – OnEstEnsemble
In Cameroon, ACORN affiliate OnEstEnsemble investigated the management of care related to Covid-19 in the hospitals of Douala recommending a guarantee effective free access and the defense of citizens’ rights. The association also published a survey report on the inequity of access to water in Douala on the occasion of World Water Day. Recognized as a common good, and a quality public service for all, OnEstEnsemble has carried out multiple campaigns aimed at improving access to water in the districts. Finally, OnEstEnsemble drafted member profiles to highlight the many ways the COVID-10 impacted members.
CZECH REPUBLIC – AKORN
In the Czech Republic, AKORN prepared community housing and social workshops in a monastery they rent from the Augustinian line. The monastery is intended to create a background for a socially cohesive community, social workshops (carpentry, locksmith and innovative) as well as a base for a social construction company for the neighborhood. It also intends to present and develop cultural and public content and shared values with the surroundings.
FRANCE – Alliance Citoyenne
In France, Alliance Citoyenne mobilized for the “debts of confinement” caused by unpaid rents of tenants who suffered loss of income. In Grenoble, tenants challenged elected officials and were able to increase the means for the Budget points and secure inclusion if the release of special funds for the most affected households. Alliance Citoyenne mobilized to obtain of the debt cancellation for tenants most weakened by the situation. They also obtained a Solidarity Fund for Housing.