Mutual-aid groups spread in covid-stricken America

Mutual-aid groups spread in covid-stricken America

Their expansion has been a positive development in a ghastly year

For maurice cook, a community organiser in Washington, dc, the covid-19 pandemic has brought mostly the worst of times—but in some ways the best.

The poor black neighbourhoods where the burly Washingtonian has spent 20 years trying to improve educational opportunity are among the most ravaged in the country. Plagued by generations of poverty and ill-health, black residents of the capital city have succumbed to the virus at six times the rate of whites. And with government-support programmes running dry, even as many of Washington’s restaurants and other businesses remain shut, years of steady poverty alleviation in the city are unravelling.

“The effects of covid-19 look like this,” said Mr Cook, gesturing grimly, while handing out masks in an encampment of homeless people one wet and icy day this week. Huddled beneath an underpass, a short walk from Capitol Hill, its rows of dowdy tents had doubled since he began distributing basic supplies there early this year. Yet he has at least had unprecedented backup in that effort. “The incomers, the gentrifiers, they really stepped up,” he said.