The Shelter Association of Washtenaw County (SAWC), an Ann Arbor nonprofit that provides shelter and services for people experiencing homelessness in the county, is inviting the public to take part in the first-ever virtual Hustle for Housing 5K on Nov. 14.
All proceeds from the event, which is being held during the SAWC's Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, will go to support the organization's COVID-19 relief fund. Due to the pandemic, participants will not congregate in a single location to do the 5K but may start from home or another location of their choice.
"We really need the community's support now more than ever," says Samantha Adams, SAWC's marketing, event, and communications coordinator. "Our relief fund is in such dire need."
Adams explains that the SAWC's staff have been categorized as essential workers throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to keeping the shelter doors open at the Robert J. Delonis Center in Ann Arbor, they've also had to expand services to additional locations in order to observe state-mandated social distancing requirements.
"Our expenses increased dramatically to allow sheltering of clients in other locations such as hotels, community centers, and local churches," she says. "We're managing these expenses while also managing the expected increase in COVID cases as they arise in the next flu season."
Additionally, SAWC staff are looking for locations they can potentially utilize or rent at a low cost since they don't currently have any day shelter options. Some of their offsite locations are not very feasible because clients are asked to leave in the early hours of the morning with nowhere to go in the daytime.
Adams hopes the 5K will do more than help the SAWC continue its mission to help homeless individuals across Washtenaw County. She's optimistic that it will help bring community members together for mutual support and fun during the pandemic. People are encouraged to participate (safely distanced) in the way that best suits them, whether it be running, walking their dog, riding a bike, pushing a baby stroller, hiking, or rollerblading.
Registration for the 5K is set at $25. Interested individuals can sign up on the SAWC's website and/or simply make a donation toward the COVID-19 relief fund. All registrants will be mailed a small token of gratitude that includes tips for race day and an "I Hustled for Housing" sticker that can be shared on social media.
"We hope that everyone will show up to help our community's most vulnerable," Adams says. "We've been working tirelessly to help our clients but we just can't do it alone, especially during these trying times."
Adams says SAWC staff have been consistently "going above and beyond," serving over 700 individuals and helping over 120 people find housing since the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Our current motto is that 'we are Batman' because we have been everywhere people need us to be, whenever they need us," Adams says. "But at the end of the day we can't change lives without the rest of the community coming out and being heroes, too."
For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County.