Give STL Day Spotlight: ArchCity Defenders

By Ranen Miao
Community Investment Intern

From being one of the founding organizations of the successful Close the Workhouse Campaign to offering legal support for indigent defendants, ArchCity Defenders has been a consistent fighter on the front lines for justice. Since its founding in 2009, ArchCity has been a holistic legal advocacy organization that has combated the criminalization of poverty and state violence, specifically in communities of color. By offering civil and criminal legal representation, social services, impact litigation, policy and media advocacy, and community collaboration, ArchCity has fought to achieve and inspire justice and equitable outcomes for individuals throughout the St. Louis region.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many ArchCity clients experienced harmful collateral consequences as a result of their interactions with the Carceral system, including losing jobs, vehicles, apartments, and facing large barriers to regaining housing and employment. After COVID-19 struck, these problems were only exacerbated.

“We know that the most vulnerable among us – poor people, people of color, and other marginalized groups – have and still today are bearing the brunt of infectious disease epidemics,” said Mykael Ombaun, Grant and Program Manager for ArchCity Defenders. As Ombaun stated, “Folks who work in the front lines are “spread thin, tired, stressed, overwhelmed, and have more needs and questions than resources and answers.”

In order to support the operations, ArchCity participated in Give STL Day in which they were able to raise $31,358. “Give STL Day is an effective way to raise funds; it builds community, it contributes to a larger movement to engage all St. Louisians in supporting our region’s nonprofits,” Ombaun remarked. “And, it’s really fun.”

Through Give STL Day, ArchCity has been able to creatively respond to the pandemic. As COVID-19 slowed down the economy, ArchCity ramped up their work to address the rise in evictions, food insecurity, and unemployment. They sent hundreds of newsletters to households without access to technology to help them apply for life-sustaining resources, contributing to an exhaustive resource database for the St. Louis region, increasing contact with clients to navigate housing and economic instability, delivering basic household supplies to clients most in need, and facilitating over $40,000 in emergency housing assistance.

“Overall, our work addresses the root causes of poverty. Inequity has only accelerated over the last month. and we are working hard to stretch our resources and serve our communities more creatively,” Ombaun explained.

ArchCity’s tenacity, flexibility, and innovation during COVID-19 has allowed them to continue making a significant impact in the St. Louis community. Most importantly, by remaining adaptable and persevering amidst the toughest times, they continue to bring St. Louis closer to their vision of a society liberated from systems of oppression, offering justice and racial equity for all.

Want to learn more about ArchCity Defenders? Visit their website, follow them on Instagram and Twitter, and donate to them through this link.