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In Their Own Words

Our clients’ experiences during COVID-19

Since March 2020, our program team have spoken to hundreds of clients who have described – sometimes in heartbreaking terms – their experience dealing with this pandemic.

From job losses right at a time of becoming financially independent, to the frustrations of home schooling, or even coping with bereavement as a result of the virus, time and again our clients have shared with us the specific challenges they have faced and reinforced that Bottomless Closet has helped them to sustain their hope during this unprecedented time.

Featured Story: Lakeida

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The recession we are facing today is unique. For the first time, more women have lost their jobs than men and unemployment rates remain highest for Hispanic and Black women at 11%. Since 83% of Bottomless Closet clients are women of color, it’s not surprising that a shocking 68% report being laid off since March.

This pandemic has robbed these women of their jobs, and in many cases, it has robbed them of family members as well. It has robbed them of their hard-won successes – their solvency, their homes, their confidence. It has robbed them of hope. In the face of so much loss, at Bottomless Closet we have reinvented our services to support our clients as they navigate these seemingly insurmountable challenges. Clients like Lakeida.

2020 started out well for Lakeida. She ended a spell of unemployment, land­ing a job more senior than the one she applied for, thanks to her new Bottom­less Closet resume. And best of all, she had her new baby daughter, Nalani. “I never allowed being pregnant to hinder my goal of employment,” Lakeida says. “I interviewed for the cleaner position; I was hired as the receptionist.”

Being pregnant also didn’t stop Lakeida’s dedication to Bottomless Closet’s workshops and last November, she graduated from both the Financial Manage­ment and Professional Development programs. For a former Special Education student, this was a special moment. “I was often made to feel dumb at school. Graduating showed me I could do a lot of things I thought I would never accomplish,” she recalls, smiling. But in March 2020, Lakeida’s life was upended. Homebound with two children to care for and on the cusp of losing her new job, she needed the support of Bottomless Closet more than ever. In response to the critical needs of clients like Lakeida, in mid-March, we launched a series of remote support services.

As it turned out, Lakeida’s hard won skills made her a valuable asset to her employer and – unlike 68% of Bottomless Closet clients – she’s been able to keep her job. But as a single mom working remotely with the responsibilities of home-schooling one child and taking care of a new baby, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and isolated. As she explains, Bottomless Closet has been a light during these dark days: “Bottomless Closet’s Zoom workshops during the pandemic have given me a sense of belonging. Attending workshops while taking care of my newborn has given me some of my best moments these past few months.”

Lakeida’s experience echoes that of many clients and virtual workshop par­ticipation is up 50% over in-person workshops over the same period in 2019. To date 1,342 clients have attended workshops seeking to build their finan­cial skills, educate themselves on their legal rights as tenants or employees and learn how to keep themselves and their families healthy through bet­ter nutrition and stress reduction. For Lakeida, being able to access content that addresses her most immediate and urgent needs has been invaluable: “The topics are current and can be applied to many scenarios we are experiencing during these unusual times.”

For clients without access to technology, isolation is an even bigger problem, and our outreach program has addressed their needs through personal phone calls to our most vulnerable clients. To date we’ve made 2,873 outreach calls and, like Lakeida, women report a stronger sense of well-being, belonging and, crucially, connection.

“COVID-19 has hit all of us hard,” Lakeida explains, speaking on behalf of all Bottomless Closet clients. “Bottomless Closet helps our world go round.”

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