The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the country’s caregivers, charities, and community advocates to the breaking point. Employment, housing, criminal justice, healthcare: every struggle in American life has gotten harder. Encouragingly, new groups have mobilized—in New York City and around the country. Mutual aid groups have filled in the void ignored by the state delivering food to neighbors free of charge, while anti-eviction teams have linked arms in front of courtrooms and row houses, protecting struggling tenants. There are small victories, but the larger crisis continues. Five months since the coronavirus outbreak hit New York City, many mutual aid networks are struggling to retain committed volunteers and willing donors. There is only so much energy with which to organize, and so much money to spare. Yet they carry on, supporting as many as they can, often in the most basic way: free nutritious food and household items. During the final weeks of summer, I visited groups that have ramped up their capacity to fight against food insecurity. Staff members and volunteers showed an inspiring depth of commitment, creativity, and good humor as they did all they could, hour after hour, to help as many families as possible. While this cannot continue forever and needs a coordinated state response, on a day-to-day level these heroic efforts pick up some of the slack highlighting a foundation of resolve, perseverance, and care for each other on which a better world can be forged.
Scott Heins is a freelance photographer based in New York City. You can see more of his work here.