August 3, 2020
When it became clear just how deeply our clients were going to be affected by the pandemic, we made the pivot to use our experience and resources to support them remotely. Our first COVID-19 Impact Survey in March showed that less than 5% of our clients were still interviewing for jobs. Armed with this information, in addition to supporting these women, we set about creating a program to address the immediate concerns of the majority which included handling their financial stresses, dealing with isolation and even the basics of providing healthy food for their families.
One of the many online workshops for Bottomless Closet clients
With the support of our deeply committed volunteer community, we launched three new virtual programs –Together at Home, Upskill at Home and Interview at Home – and since mid-March, thousands of clients have benefited from these supports.
Together at Home
Our first COVID-19 Impact Survey revealed that 62% of clients had been laid off – a figure that rose to 68% by June – and that 40% were attempting to school children at home. The survey also indicated that beyond the health and economic impact of the virus, the lockdown measures were leaving many clients in isolation, which was damaging their ability to maintain their hard won confidence. To respond to this need, we launched Together at Home – an extensive outreach program to our most vulnerable clients.
As part of Together at Home, our program team made individual calls to over 2,000 clients and held almost 600 personal conversations with them. These conversations provided deeper insight into the exact nature of the challenges these women were facing and proved to be very powerful to clients, who reported feeling less alone as a result.
On these calls, clients also voiced their confusion and frustration with so many conflicting messages surrounding the virus and looked to Bottomless Closet as a source for trusted information. In response to client demand, our comprehensive COVID-19 Resource Guide was created to include details on a range of topics to help clients navigate the pandemic, covering everything from financial guidance, to childcare and self-care. These guides have been emailed frequently to clients and also include up to date job postings and the latest curriculum from our new Upskill at Home program.
Upskill at Home
Created around three core pillars of Financial Management, Professional Development and Personal Enrichment, our workshop curriculum has long been an integral part of our program that provides clients with practical tools to work towards self-sufficiency.
In March, we launched Upskill at Home, a series of virtual workshops provided to clients via Zoom with our first set of topics providing a rapid and urgent response to key needs including Managing Finances in the time of COVID-19, SNAP benefits, Tenant’s rights, COVID Protection at the workplace and more. As the program evolved, we introduced a more diverse set of topics by a diverse set of facilitators which included a focus on everything from nutrition to meditation, budgeting, mock-interview practice and even how to create a “Rock-Star Pitch”!
To date, 1,137 clients have taken part in Upskill at Home which represents a 69% uplift over the same period last year. Feedback is overwhelmingly positive and even when in-person services are restored, this remote program will remain in place.
Interview at Home
While the number of clients interviewing for jobs has fallen dramatically, we have been heartened to see some clients interviewing for – and securing – jobs. With this in mind, we have adapted our Interview Coaching model to deliver this virtually – online or over the phone. Interview at Home is not only delivered remotely but also addresses the nuances of remote interviewing and content has been updated to include key tips and techniques for success in this environment. Clients are matched with Career Coaches who then work together to ensure the client is prepared and confident as she approaches her interview. As with our in-person model, each client’s resume is reviewed and updated where required. To date, 66 Interview at Home appointments have been completed.