Power to the People: 50+ Grassroots Activists Step Up During the COVID-19 Crisis [UPDATED]

By Tracey Onyenacho Mar 30, 2020

Editor’s Note: This list was updated on Friday, May 1, 2020

Since the coronavirus has entered our country and consciousness, it has driven many to act out in desperate measures out of fear and uncertainty. The order to self-isolate and quarantine sent many into a panic, clearing out store shelves and hoarding resources. While emergency workers such as nurses and grocery clerks are helping out on the clock, many community members have stepped up to help people in their greatest time of need, including elders, people with immunocompromised systems, the unhoused, and our most vulnerable, who have the least access to savings, healthcare, and experience unemployment at the highest rates.

We decided to focus on the grassroots, a long-held practice of Colorlines, and by grassroots, we mean, "at the root"— community-based, no association with state or government institutions (which includes non-profits and businesses, with one or two exceptions) and organized and run by those impacted by the pandemic. Many are organized around the principle of "mutual aid", where the community takes care of itself to provide for itself. It is self-organized, non-hierarchal, responsive, and outside of, or working against state structures. 

Here are the organizations you can lend a hand to and that are keeping the people alive and surviving:

Economic Relief Funding

For artists:

Seattle Artist Relief Fund (Seattle)
rnWriter and author Ijeoma Oluo organized a fund and is requesting financial donations for artists in Seattle, one of the cities with the most confirmed cases, who are struggling financially during the coronavirus crisis. 

Queer Writers of Color Relief Fund (United States)
rnFollowing in Oluo’s footsteps, this fund is collecting donations to redistribute to 100 queer writers who are financially impacted during this pandemic.

NYC Low-Income Artist/Freelancer Relief Fund (New York City)
rnTwo artists in New York City are collecting funds to help other artists and freelancers who lost their source of income due to closures from the pandemic.

For those currently and formerly incarcerated and their loved ones:

Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (New York/New Jersey)
rnThis fund is asking for donations to increase commissary funds for LGBTQIA+ folks who are currently in immigrant detention or other essential needs for those released in New York and New Jersey.

NYC COVID-19 Financial Solidarity for Formerly Incarcerated People and Their Families Mutual Aid Project (New York City)
rnThis mutual aid project is taking donations and redistributing them up to $250 per person to formerly incarcerated folks and their loved ones in New York City.

Baltimore COVID-19 Prison Hotline (Baltimore)
rnIncarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) in Baltimore is setting up a free prison hotline for those inside correctional and detention facilities who have COVID-19 symptoms, are near a unit outbreak, or are denied medical care. The funds collected will be used to pay for the forwarding service and the fees for the calls made to clients. 

Humanitarian Migrant Fund for Migrant Families (U.S./Mexico Border)
rnAl Otro Lado is organizing emergency funds for migrant families that are affected by border closures, asylum seekers, deportees, and folks in refugee camps.

GLITS Emergency Fund for Formerly Incarcerated Trans Women of Color (New York City)
rnGays and Lesbians Living In a Transgender Society is organizing funds to provide cell phones, food, and housing for trans women of color coming home from Rikers Island.

For people of color:

COVID-19 NYC Black Folk Mutual Aid Fund (New York City)
rnBYP100, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), and DecrimNY are organizing funds or Black folks in New York, especially those who are involved in “street economies.” 


Native American Community Response Fund (Turtle Island/United States)
rnDecolonizing Wealth Project, Native Americans in Philanthropy and the National Urban Indian Family Coalition are raising money to provide emergency funds to Native families impacted by the coronavirus. 

COVID-19 Mutual Aid Fund For CA Latinx Elders (California)
rnThese Latinx organizers are raising funds for Latinx folks over 65 who work non-traditional jobs.

Northern Arapaho COVID 19 Support Fund (Northern Arapaho lands, Wyoming)
rnFunds are being raised for the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming to provide medical support, preventative care, and other necessary supplies to folks affected by COVID-19.

Autistic People Of Color Fund (United States)
rnThis fund sustains the “interdependence, survival, and empowerment” of autistic people of color during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Small Business Relief Fund (Seattle)
rnThis relief fund seeks to raise funds that help small businesses in the Chinatown International District in Seattle that are financially struggling due to closures mandated by the pandemic. 

Emergency Funds For NY Filipinos (New York City)
rnDamayan Migrants Workers Association started an emergency fund to support Filipinos in New York who are financially struggling during the pandemic.

South Asian and Indo-Carribean Emergency Fund (New York City)
rnDesis Rising Up and Moving is seeking funds to provide mutual aid to South Asian and Indo-Carribean working class, immigrant, and undocumented people.

Radical Muslim Mutual Aid COVID-19 Redistribution Fund (Chicago)
rnQueer Descent and Masjid al-Rabia are organizing funds to support Muslim communities of color affected by COVID-19.

For sex workers:

Las Vegas Sex Worker Fund (Las Vegas)
rnSex workers in Las Vegas are asking for funds to support other sex workers who are out of work due to the lack of in-person appointments caused by the coronavirus shutdown of casinos and other entertainment venues.

DC Sex Worker Fund (Washington D.C.)
rnThe sex worker community in D.C. is raising funds to issue emergency grants to Trans sex workers, motel rooms for unhoused Trans sex workers and those who need to quarantine.

SWOP Los Angeles Emergency Fund (Los Angeles)
rnSex Worker Outreach Project in Los Angeles is requesting emergency funds for sex workers in Los Angeles who are struggling during the coronavirus crisis.

For other service workers:

Ohio Service Workers Mutual Aid Fund (Ohio)
rnThis mutual aid fund is organizing funds for service workers who are unemployed due to restaurant and business closures from the Coronavirus shutdown in Ohio.

One Fair Wage Tipped and Service Workers Fund (United States)
rnOur Fair Wage, a campaign that fights for minimum wage for all, is organizing funds for tipped and service workers such as Uber/Lyft drivers to provide financial assistance.

Oakland Food Service Workers Relief Fund (Oakland, California)
rnThese food service workers are calling on those with a steady income to financially support those who have lost their jobs during the Coronavirus crisis.

Farmworkers’ Pandemic Relief Fund (United States)
rnJustice for Migrant Women is helping farmworkers who have to work during the COVID-19 crisis and are risking their health and safety by raising funds to provide them with money for utilities and medical supplies.

Nail Salon Worker Resilience Fund (New York City)
rnThis fund is supporting nail workers who have been put out of work due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

Alianza Agricola Emergency Solidarity COVID-19 Fund (New York City)
rnThis undocumented immigrant farmworker-led group has set up a fund to “help facilitate the availability of food and supplies” and provide financial support for medical bills and lost wages. 

Food Assistance

Red Wing Laredo’s Food Supply Delivery Program (Webb County/Rio Grande Valley, Texas)
rnThe organization is delivering food to elderly and immunocompromised folks in Webb County and Rio Grande Valley in Texas and are in need of funds and volunteers.

Good Kids Mad City (Chicago)
rnBlack and Brown youth in Chicago are delivering groceries to folks on the South and West sides who can’t leave their homes.


Brave Space Alliance’s Crisis Pantry Program (Chicago)
rnFood pantries like this one operated by Brave Space Alliance, a Black-led and Trans-led LGBTQ Center in South Side Chicago, are keeping their doors open to feed people during the Coronavirus crisis. 

Bedstuy Grocery Delivery (Brooklyn, New York)
rnOver 100 volunteers in the Bedstuy neighborhood in New York are buying and delivering groceries for elders and their families.

Chicago Youth Buying Gift Cards To Feed Street Based Youth (Chicago)
rnStreet Youth Rise Up is organizing to purchase gift cards to restaurants and other food delivery services for those without homes.

Farine Baking Company in NY Handing Out Free Food Items (Queens, New York)
rnA bakery in Jackson Heights, New York has set up a table every morning to give out free food for those who are financially struggling and can’t afford to pay.

East Los Angeles Food Assistance (Los Angeles)
rnFolks in East Los Angeles are handing out free groceries and scheduling food pickups for those who are stuck inside due to the quarantine.

Clean Water in Navajo Homes (Navajo Nation, Turtle Island)
rnThis project is bringing clean water to Navajo families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donations Requested for Migrant Communities in Northern Virginia  (Northern Virginia)
rnThis Latinx-led collaborative, La ColectiVA, is requesting food donations to distribute to migrant families/individuals in Northern Virginia.



Philadelphia Neighbors Helping With Grocery Delivery And More (Philadelphia)
rnNeighbors Helping Neighbors, a Black, Brown, and Native-led mutual aid group, has organized to assist with grocery pickup/delivery and other aid services.

Volunteers Needed for Grocery Deliveries in South Central LA (Los Angeles)
rnOrganizers in Los Angeles are looking for runners that are able to help purchase and deliver groceries to those vulnerable within the community.

We All We Got Grocery Delivery (San Diego)
rnA mutual aid project is seeking volunteers who can help with driving to deliver groceries to those in the San Diego community.

Medical Assistance

Abortion Support Services In Tucson (Tucson, Arizona)
rnTucson Abortion Support Collective (TASC) in Southern Arizona is providing free Plan B and pregnancy tests as well as emotional, physical, and logistical support to those seeking abortion services who need assistance navigating some of the abortion bans that have sprung up during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Sanitary Kits For People at Catawba County Detention Facility (Catawba County, North Carolina)
rnOrganizers have put together instructions on how to buy sanitary kits in the commissaries of people imprisoned in Catawba County Detention Facility in North Carolina.

Portland Street Medics Make and Give Out Hand Sanitizer Fund (Portland, Oregon)
rnRosehip Medic Collective and Portland Action Medics are making hand sanitizers and have hit the streets handing them out to those who don’t have access to sinks. 

Medical Supplies Needed for Chicago Healthcare Workers (Chicago)
rnHealthcare workers in Chicago that are helping a local homeless shelter are looking for medical supplies and are asking for donations.

Handwashing Stations for Unhoused People in Bay Area (Bay Area, California)
rnOrganizers at Berkeley Free Clinic are seeking funds to purchase hand washing stations for 10 encampments that have been neglected by the local government.

Los Angeles Resident Coordinates Assistance For People With Immunocompromised Systems (Los Angeles)
rnSelf-described “concerned citizen with an immunocompromised roommate” in Los Angeles has put together a spreadsheet to collect assistance requests from those in need and to gather help from those who are able.

Portable Toilets and Solar Showers for Curbside Communities in Oakland (Oakland, California)
rnAfter getting two months’ supply of Portapotties and hand washing stations for encampments, The Village in Oakland is fundraising to purchase solar showers, clean drinking water, and supplies to build shelter.

Mask Crusaders Group Looking for Personal Protective Equipment (United States)
rnFrom Los Angeles to Philly to Boston, this group is asking for people to donate personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers who are on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Medicine Pickup and Other Aid for BIPOC Disabled Folks in East Bay (East Bay, California)
rnOrganizers at the Disability Justice Culture Club are taking requests for assistance with medicine pickup/delivery from people with disabilities in the eastern part of San Francisco Bay Area, especially elder and/or Black, Brown, people of color with disabilities.

Volunteers Needed to Sew Masks in Knoxville (Knoxville, Tennessee)
rnKnox Makes Masks, a group in Tennessee that is coordinating sewing masks for healthcare workers, is asking for more volunteers to help.

Housing Assistance

HOPICS LA Provides Parking Lot for People Living In Their Vehicle (Los Angeles)
rnHomeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS) in South Los Angeles is providing a safe parking lot with on-site security and portable toilets for folks living in their vehicle.
























A post shared by Co Housing Circle Los Angeles (@co_housing_circle_la) on Mar 15, 2020 at 11:30pm PDT


Riverside County Offers Emergency Housing to At-Risk Folks (Riverside County, California)
rnRiverside County in California is providing emergency temporary housing in hotel and motel units to unhoused folks who are elderly, pregnant, have a chronic health condition, or an immunocompromised system. 

Laundry Support For Single Resident Occupancy Residents (San Francisco)
rnThis San Francisco resident is raising funds for laundry and cleaning supplies for their poorly managed, low income building.

Atlanta Offers Housing To Displaced Students (Atlanta)
rnThis organizer is coordinating temporary housing for college students throughout Atlanta that were displaced due to the Coronavirus shutdown.

Emmaus House Is Offering Financial Assistance For Housing (Atlanta)
rnThis shelter for unhoused folks in Atlanta is offering financial assistance for rent, mortgage, or utility payments up to $1500 each for residents in Summer Hill, Peoplestown, Grant Park, Mechanicsville, and Pittsburgh.

This list of grassroots organizations offering assistance during the pandemic will be updated on a regular basis.