Getting Through COVID 19 for People Experiencing Homelessness
I, along with a team of 17 people, run The Center for Respite Care. Our daily job is to provide medical care and a safe place to recover and heal when an individual experiencing homelessness has nowhere else to go. This includes people who are discharged from hospitals and do not have the benefit of a safe home or to stay with family members.
The COVID19 pandemic has been a trying time for our community and our nation. While many executives, nonprofit and government employees worked from home, our team continued to work, 24 four hours a day, 7days a week. This was not remote. This was coming to a place to ensure that our clients continued to receive optimal care. This included treatment, locating permanent placement, securing employment, social work intervention and all that a person may need to be released from our care with a stable plan and connections to the community.
While, I am proud of my team, I also am well aware that our constituency did not have other options and it has been up to us to do our best to prevent COVID19 infections, see that vaccines were/are administered and to not let the past year and one half be an excuse to pull back.
We did just that.
We know that our clients are some of the most vulnerable.
According to The University of California-San Diego:
“People who are homeless are disproportionately older and sicker. Many have underlying conditions – such as lung disease and diabetes – that set them up for disastrous outcomes. Add a highly communicable disease that spreads through a respiratory mode to a population living in crowded conditions with poor access to basic hygiene, and you have a nightmare scenario.”
Simply put, COVID19 is a condition that wreaks havoc on an already vulnerable population. And it is not over yet. Until COVID19 further abates through both herd immunity and general public health measures, we will continue with vigilance.
Recently, a website called Invisible People articulated:
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on people who are experiencing homelessness or who are living in unstable housing or crowded situations because they can’t afford a home of their own. Think about these situations:
- Where do you go when people in your city are told to stay home if you don’t have a home?
- Where do you wash your hands if you don’t have a home?
- What do you do if your job involves being in close contact with other people and if you need to take public transportation to get to work?
- How do you pay your rent or mortgage if you lose your job, or your hours are cut?
- How do you self-isolate and stay socially distant if you live with several people because you can’t afford a place of your own?
- How do you get critical supplies like masks and face coverings when you are already struggling to pay rent and utilities?
And we add – what if you are released from a hospital, without a home, with a still weak immune system and a need to continue to heal – in addition to all of the challenges explained by invisible people?
Because of these situations and others, people experiencing homelessness have a higher risk of becoming ill with COVID19, remaining ill and possibly not recovering.
This continues to be true. I am most grateful to my team who has continued to report to work, to Hamilton County who continues to offer some financial support, to our donors who are always there for us and to our volunteers who continue to provide food, activities and general support.
It truly takes a village.