The coronavirus pandemic that began in 2020, triggered a global recession as numerous countries, including the US, went into lockdown. As businesses, schools and childcare facilities closed, and people were encouraged to stay at home to help control the spread of COVID-19, Southern Management Companies (Southern) communities became an even more important source of comfort and a necessary safe haven for residents. Regrettably, many of Southern’s residents suffered a tremendous financial impact due to lost wages and unemployment.
Southern never wavered in its ongoing commitment to deliver exceptional service to the company’s residents, hotel guests and office tenants and continued to treat all customers with the dignity and respect they deserve. After all, like most people around the world, they were dealing with unprecedented circumstances, faced with uncertainty about meeting their daily needs and financial responsibilities. In fact, Southern’s compassion and support increased to new levels, taking steps to provide its customers with peace of mind, resources and hope.
Providing a Safe Haven and Peace of Mind
Managing its communities safely is Southern’s top priority, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a responsibility the company takes very seriously. In the earliest days of the pandemic, Southern developed a comprehensive health and safety program called Ever Strong that guides the safe operations of all its properties. The program details measures that were immediately implemented to ensure customers and team members feel assured of Southern’s commitment to wellness during the crisis. These proactive measures have proven to be the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illnesses, and were especially important as Southern’s residents spent more time quarantining in their homes. Southern’s efforts were based upon guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health experts, and government and industry authorities. The Ever Strong program is built upon four pillars—physical distancing and face coverings, cleanliness, active monitoring and rapid response. Using the Ever Strong plan as their guide, Southern’s team members remained at the company’s properties to provide essential services to residents, guests and tenants alike.
Navigating Financial Insecurities
Closures to schools, childcare, and places of employment meant a heightened financial burden to many and loss of access to meal programs–forcing some to ration food or forgo other critical needs, such as medication, utilities and rent. Team members participated in a fundraiser to raise money to stock Southern’s food pantry. This effort helped purchase supplies to fill and deliver food to nearly 50 households in need.
Southern created a virtual book club this past summer, to encourage grade school residents to continue reading during summer vacation. Participants submitted video book reports and winners of the initiative were presented with their very own Chromebook, delivered just in time for the start of the 2020 virtual school year.
Southern also came through by sharing holiday cheer to deserving families in dire need with the Adopt-a-Family Initiative by partnering with the United Way of Central Maryland and A Wider Circle in Montgomery County.
A regrettable impact of the pandemic is the toll it has taken on so many Americans, due to lost wages and unemployment. Southern worked diligently to determine how to best assist its residents and bolster their ability to navigate their current financial difficulties. Working with county officials and non-profit organizations, Southern has been able to help its residents obtain over $4.3 Million in rental assistance.
Additionally, it developed a webinar series for residents called “Coming Out of COVID on Top.” The first portion of this two-part program gathered a panel of experts from the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, Mission of Love Charities, Truist Bank and Southern Management. The representatives shared valuable insights and key recommendations about rental assistance programs, eligibility for county resources, stretching limited incomes and budgeting in the midst of a crisis.
Part two of the program was a virtual career fair, featuring opportunities for employment throughout Prince George’s county, including details about the county’s apprenticeship initiative. The Prince George’s Country Fire and EMS Department and various other employers in the area discussed job opportunities and resources available to help people find work. These valuable insights and key recommendations helped Southern’s residents develop their own plan for “Coming Out of COVID on Top.”
The COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history as one of the most difficult times America (and the world) has ever faced. The Southern team has done everything within their power to assist its residents, guests, tenants and team members throughout the crisis and to try and mitigate the impact of the pandemic. The company’s credo is to do the right things, in the right ways, for the right reasons–and its overall response to the hardships of 2020/2021 have met that criteria at every turn.