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Providing social services plays an important role in helping our clients stabilize their everyday lives as they pursue justice in the legal system. Edith Zarco is a Social Services Associate at Tahirih Justice Center’s Baltimore office.

Recently, Tahirih Baltimore teamed up with a Baltimore City-based funder to help facilitate the disbursement of emergency funds to 24 clients affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to other generous grant funding, 37 clients will be receiving rental assistance to help prevent evictions and assist clients in maintaining housing. Additionally, Tahirih Baltimore has received donated food and grocery store gift cards to provide assistance with the basic needs of clients.

Growing up, Edith was raised in a community of immigrants, and heard stories about the many different journeys that it took to get to the United States; a place that many families, including her own, saw as  hope for a better future. In college, Edith continued to explore her passion for advocacy towards immigrants by studying psychology, women and gender studies, to further understand people’s unique stories. After graduating from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Edith went on to work as a court advocate at the Elgin Community Crisis Center in Illinois, providing court advocacy to domestic violence survivors.

In 2017, Edith joined the team at Tahirih Baltimore where she primarily assists clients in meeting their basic needs by connecting them to community resources, providing victim advocacy including assisting clients in attending court and obtaining a protective order to secure other services and resources.

Our clients’ journey to immigration relief is long and I have worked with several clients for many years. I often develop close relationships with them. I greatly appreciate their openness, courage, and perseverance throughout the process. I am grateful that they can build trust with me and our organization. Although the journey is long, I find it meaningful to acknowledge the small victories and our shared humanness.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only impacted the way we work, but also the needs of our clients. Most of our direct contact work has transitioned to strictly remote and offering the same level of care to clients can be challenging.

Our clients are typically at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing needed services. Some examples of this include, language barriers, limited access to transportation, unmet mental health needs, and low literacy levels. It is not at all uncommon for clients to be facing all four barriers or more. During normal circumstances, this would prove difficult for anyone. Now during a pandemic and a national recession, the client needs, and barriers are at their greatest.

Seeking justice and safety in the wake of violence is a multi-layered process that includes navigating a complex legal system while also working through immense trauma and fear. This has required the team at Tahirih to find creative solutions in response to unprecedented circumstances.

Almost overnight, I had over 90% of my clients financially destabilized, having to navigate remote services and learning for their children. Many safety nets available to the community are not accessible to our clients.

Even in moments of great difficulty, the Baltimore team continues to connect with their passion, as it fuels their resiliency and determination, to support their clients more than ever.

I look forward to Tahirih’s continued growth in fighting to support our clients, not only as women, but as individuals who hold multiple identities. I believe this is a pivotal national and personal moment of reflection on what justice, equality and freedom from violence means in America.