The Power of Community Care During COVID-19: Mutual Aid & Resource Guides

In a time of unprecedented crisis, we’ve encountered a world of selfless human beings taking action to help their communities. Across the country, hundreds of college students, campus staff, and community members have come to assist their peers, neighbors, and fellow community members in accessing pathways to ease their basic needs insecurities while the world battles the pandemic.

From free local transportation to free frequent flyer miles; from virtual one-on-one counseling appointments to virtual community spaces for mental and spiritual health; from comprehensive lists of local food pantries to offerings of free home cooked to-go meals; from free WiFi to free hotspots and Chromebooks; from school-based funding and grants to offerings of personal funds from strangers. The acts of service are limitless, and we’re endlessly grateful to these communities and countless others for their unconditional care for one another.

These leaders have compiled and widely distributed living mutual aid documents and resource guides to reach anyone in need. Inspired by these truly remarkable collaborators, we compiled a list of some of the most comprehensive mutual aid documents and resource guides from across the field of higher education. 

Mutual aid

Mutual aid is defined by the cooperative factors operating in the development of society. In the case of an international crisis, community members offer what they can give to their neighbors, and in exchange their neighbors offer support within their own means as well.

Wesleyan University’s Mutual Aid Guide

An incredibly comprehensive and well-organized mutual aid spreadsheet was created at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, based on a template being circulated by students at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. Within this spreadsheet, one can find information regarding financial assistance, travel accommodations, housing, storage solutions, mental health websites and hotlines, food, health care help, international student resources, emotional/spiritual support, and miscellaneous supportive resources. Highlights include:

Housing:  Nearly 115 people have offered extra beds and rooms in their homes and apartments for short and long term stays. A hostel offered low-rate rooms for extended stays for displaced students.

Storage: Nearly 60 people have offered their basements, garages, storage units, and warehouses for student storage, and some have converted their extra rooms into storage spaces specifically for this purpose.

Transport: Over 70 people have offered rides all around the east coast, from Connecticut to New York to Massachusetts to Pennsylvania and so on. They’ve also been offering rides in their hometowns, in Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, and some have even offered for folks to use their extra airline miles or points for their flights back home.

Food: Folks have offered home cooked meals, frozen and non-perishable items, and hundreds of extra dining points for students to use in the dining hall and at the on-campus food shop. People have offered to order meals for others via food delivery apps, and others have offered to simply send students money via Venmo or Paypal.

Health Care Help: Local resources for urgent care and health centers have been listed, as well as an offer for assistance with the Medicaid application process and herbal medicine for immune health.

International Students: A whole FAQ has been posted for international students, regarding online classes affecting immigration status, visa and passport information for traveling home, and contact information for the Office of International Student Affairs.

Emotional/Spiritual Support: 50+ people have offered their contact information for anyone to reach out if they’d like someone to talk to or need any sort of emotional support. Some have specifically listed groups of people they’d be especially supportive towards, including first generation, low income students, people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, international students, and students of various religions and faiths.

Miscellaneous: People have offered connections to part-time jobs, frequent flyer miles, covering costs, and packing/shipping help for those who need it.

Tufts University’s Mutual Aid Guide

The Tufts University community jumped into action to support their peers and community members – on March 11, 2020, they created the Tufts Mutual Aid Facebook page. The same day, the Tufts Mutual Aid for Students Affected by COVID-19 spreadsheet was posted on the page to be accessed and easily navigated by anyone in need of assistance. Over 760 people have filled out the form. In this guide, you can find links to where people can donate to relief funds for Tufts students, where students can request those funds, and  general resources for accessible food, long term and short term housing availability, usable cars and offered rides, storage spaces, offers for donated flights and ticket fare, and donated personal care items.

General Resources: This section lists resources on and around the Tufts campus, as well as in the greater Boston area. This section also lists options for Wifi, car rentals, non-perishable food, packing supplies, and local and national mutual aid resource lists.

Food: 320 people have offered to help fund and provide food for Tufts students, from fellow Tufts students, parents, faculty, community members, and alumni.

Long-term housing: Nearly 130 people have offered long-term housing for displaced Tufts students, and nearly 110 people offered their homes and extra rooms for short-term housing.

Short-term housing: Over 220 people have offered transportation for Tufts students.

Storage: There have been 375 people who have offered storage space for Tufts students.
Flights/Tickets: Over 30 people have offered to buy flights and transportation tickets for Tufts students.

Personal Care Items: Students and staff have offered personal care items, ranging from hygiene products, to toiletries, to medicine, to storage, to cooked to-go meals.

Resource Guide

A resource guide is a list of various resources provided by one entity (in this case, schools, resource centers, and community outreach groups) for the benefit, assistance, and support of the larger community. These guides include links, email addresses, phone numbers, and all other applicable information for accessing offerings in a local, statewide, or national capacity.

California State University, East Bay’s (CSUEB) Resource Guide

This resource guide is a comprehensive 3-page document that outlines the resources available to students in and around the campus community. The guide’s first page provides information about the Shelter in Place rule and proceeds to outline links, contact information, and updates for those looking for available resources.

Food pantry and food access resources are listed, including CSUEB on-campus dining and meal swipe donation updates, free food finders in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, and updates about virtual appointments for CalFresh application assistance.

There are housing updates, including information about residence halls staying open and information about emergency assistance application help. There is also information about emergency lodging support from Alameda County and the Contra Costa Crisis Center, as well as a resource for CSUEB off-campus housing.

Counseling and mental health resources through CSUEB are listed, with an offer for virtual appointments.

WiFi and computer access links live in the guide, including information about the University Library Learning Commons in Hayward, a resource for low-cost computers, and information about free internet etc. from Comcast, Spectrum, AT&T, and Verizon.

Physical health resources are listed, including access to Alameda County Social Services Agency and information about free Planet Fitness online workouts.

Support center information, including links to CSUEB Undocumented Student Resources and Immigrant Rights, LGBTQ Support, Foster and Former Foster Youth, CSUEB Student-Led Support, and Student Parent Support for Alameda County and Contra Costa County, are all included in the guide.

Transportation links are listed, including Information about ground transportation around the Bay Area, Enterprise student travel assistance, and Frontier Future Travel $100 Voucher information.

Volunteer opportunities at food banks for healthy and mobile people are also included.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s (UTK) Resource Guide

This 4-page resource guide created by the Student Basic Needs Coalition at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The guide outlines food, housing, mental health, WiFi and computer access, physical health, support center information, transportation, and emergency aid resources for students.

The food pantries and food access section lists Smokey’s Pantry for on-campus food access plus dining hall availability information, links to Second Harvest to find the nearest off-campus food pantry, and the contact information for SNAP enrollment assistance. There is also information about the Big Orange Meal Share, and how to donate. Students can also find COVID-19 Emergency Food Resources. End Hunger/FEED Change: An Initiative Across the University of Tennessee System lists food-specific UTK resources, East TN resources, and State & Federal resources.

Housing lists resources in the Knoxville area for students who need to find off-campus housing, and the transportation section has links to information about ground transportation around Knoxville and UT-specific bus route updates.

The mental health section provides online resources. There is also a physical health section, which houses a link to remote testing sites for COVID-19, information about Student Health Center available hours, and Tennessee-specific health resources. Support centers for various communities are listed as well.

WiFi and Computer Access outlines information on companies offering free internet for students, as well as on-campus technology support resources (like laptop and hotspot distribution).

Emergency aid funds from Edquity and Swipe Out Hunger are listed in the guide, plus a curated list of financial and other supportive resources from UTK Professor Christina Ergas.

University of California, Berkeley’s Resource Guide

Community members at UC Berkeley social distance and support Basic Needs efforts at the same time.

The UC Berkeley Basic Needs Center created a COVID-19 Living Guide that remains consistently updated by Basic Needs Center staff so students can continually access resources. It begins with a warm introduction, including a “welcome & affirmation” with an assurance that services will continue remotely. It states that their aim is “to provide clear and direct information” about availability of Basic Needs Center services. The guide lists Basic Needs Center space information, available hours, and remote and in-person staff availability, as well as communications information for questions, emergencies, and food resources.

The food pantry section lists grocery bag pickup information and continual updates on this program. There is also information for off-campus resources including the Berkeley Food Network, Alameda County/Contra Costa/Solano County/SF & Marin County food pantry links.

Basic Needs Center services are listed, including contact information for case management and crisis resolution services, CalFresh application support on the phone or via Google hangouts, emergency housing support, and drop-in services for financial aid.

Resources from the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office are provided, including emergency loans information, support with Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) from the University, and information for students to submit a case if the loss of their non-work study job has diminished their income.

The guide also has a large, comprehensive section on wages and work accommodations, including a powerful message to on- and off-campus employers about caring for their employees’ basic needs. The guide also lists information for student employees from the Vice Chancellors of the Division of Equity & Inclusion and the Division of Student Affairs, as well as from the Associate Vice Chancellor of People & Culture (HR) for all campus employees, about being paid for temporary remote work agreements and continuing wages if remote work is not possible. Contact information for each office is provided if difficulties arise in work accommodations.

There is a section specifically for technology support for students, including a link to the Berkeley Student Technology Fund, information for a “technology needs assessment” if a student feels as though they have unmet needs, plus information about Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots available for students.

A detailed food resource list from Berkeley Food Network is also attached to the guide, including information on open pantries in Berkeley and the surrounding Bay Area, plus links to financial resources.

The guide ends with basic needs volunteer opportunities and community resources from outside community groups.

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