Last year 64-year-old Winston Neblett was facing financial hardship. The long time Germantown resident missed many work days due to health complications.
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning, I can’t get out of the bed,” Neblett said.
Neblett was running out of paid leave and rent payments were piling up: “I try my best to keep my bills together, but for me, it was a real stressful situation.”
Fortunately, Neblett’s economic stress was only temporary. He remembered an old email about Germantown Residents for Economic Alternatives Together, better known as GREAT, a grassroots group of people sharing a local culture of caring and mutual aid.
When he first received the email Neblett was financially well; but now that his situation had changed, he reached out to the group to find out if they could be of assistance.
“It was a godsend ,” Neblett said. “First of all, it took like 10,000 pounds off my shoulders. The sun was brighter. Everything got better almost instantly.”
Neblett requested rent assistance and was able to catch up on his back rent. He said he is forever grateful for the mutual aid assistance.
Neblett was one of 75 families GREAT assisted since their mutual aid program launched last March. GREAT’s program originally began as a community-generated fund to alleviate pandemic induced financial hardship, but GREAT member Brenda Littlejohn said the program helps those in need.
“We’re talking about gifting, we’re talking about people who are in need,” Littlejohn said. “This mutual aid plan is from people in the community. It’s not judging. It’s looking at how we can help as many people as we can.”
Since March, the mutual aid committee collected more than $100,000 in donations and gave families in need more than $68,000. A few numbers help understand what they are doing; 78 percent of the donations were for rent assistance; 79 percent of recipients were people of color, and 33 percent were disabled. Littlejohn said a vital aspect of the mutual aid program is to keep Germantown residents from displacement.
“So that’s keeping people in our community,” Littlejohn said. “Some people can’t continue to afford to live in Germantown, and we want those people to stay here and continue to build the community.”
GREAT is nowhere near stopping their mutual aid program. In the words of Littlejohn, “if there’s money to collect, there’s money to give out.”
For more information about GREAT and their mutual aid program, visit their website.
The Germantown Info Hub is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.