Meeting the challenge of homelessness during COVID-19

In a recent survey of grantees of our COVID-19 Response Fund Boulder County, grantees focused on addressing the exacerbated needs of a growing number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness shared these compelling anecdotes of community impact, resilience, and adaptability:
Boulder Shelter for the Homeless
“We’ve partnered with Bridge House to ensure that there is adequate spacing (social distancing) at the Severe Weather Shelter, and have taken overflow from their facility nearly every night. We have also brought the Navigation Services program under our roof – a transition that was planned for June, and moved up due to the need for additional space at the Severe Weather Shelter.
“Individuals experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to their life circumstances. So we’ve taken the additional initiative to identify our community’s most vulnerable (65+ years old, pre-existing/chronic respiratory or cardiac conditions, etc.), and place them in hotel rooms to reduce their exposure both in community and in the shelter. We currently have 17 clients staying in a hotel, and have successfully transitioned one additional client from the hotel into an apartment.”
Bridge House
“At Community Table Kitchen, we have quadrupled our meals program and are now providing meals to patients at the COVID-19 Response Center and Boulder Shelter for the Homeless; and we have increased pre-prepared meals for Community Food Share and the Emergency Family Assistance Association, and are proud to be providing meals to the ‘Feed the Frontlines’ at Boulder Community Health.
“Additionally, in our Ready to Work House and in our social ventures, we have complied with all CDC guidelines and have implemented new hygiene and sanitation procedures, including social distancing, cleaning, hand washing, and professional level fumigating company to sanitize our properties.
“Only essential staff is permitted into our all of our locations. Volunteers are no longer participating in-person. Our frontline staff have cross-trained and are showing up and working more and longer shifts to cover expanded programming, as required because of the pandemic.”
Colorado Friendship
“For our Meals on the Street Program, we bring a trailer to Boulder every Sunday evening where we provide a hot meal and clothing to the homeless. We have modified this program to limit contact but we continue to serve each Sunday.
“We are in need of more men's warm clothing (pants, sweatshirts, jackets, coats) to give the homeless. Donations are low as people do not want to venture out and thrift stores are closed for low cost shopping (which is how we usually fill the gaps).”
Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement (HOPE)
“As COVID spread through the country and Colorado wisely responded with lockdown protocols, so many in our community were left without access to basic resources. One man, Stan, drew focus to the need for showers for those who depend on gyms and centers for this basic hygiene. We at HOPE heard him, and the many others in the same situation, and set in motion all the pieces for us to be able to offer showers and laundry. In collaboration with our church partners we started offering day hours, five days a week.
“Additionally, we’re thrilled to celebrate moving one of our long-term clients into her own home! She had health problems and the staff has given many hours to not only help her move, but find her a bed and make sure she has a ventilator. The small victories are the big victories for us!”
Sister Carmen Community Center
“One single mom was a newly hired employee with no time off benefits. She became sick, so didn’t think she should be at work, but had to take unpaid leave. She had the added worry of caring for her two children, one of whom has special needs and now lacked daytime care with the schools closed. Her mother was her main source of support previously, but she recently passed away.
“So while this mom was trying her best to get off assistance, all of this has been a huge setback. We’re covering some of her rent to make sure she doesn’t lose housing, taking care of her Xcel bill, and providing her with food.
“Additionally, our typical grocery shopping model food bank is now a drive-through or walk-up, only, model where we meet participants outside and take down their information via computer for the indoor staff who then prepare the food boxes and carry them out to the participants’ cars.
“And we’re continuing to answer the phones with a live bilingual person, because we’ve found a lot of people are so stressed or worried that it really helps just to have someone talk to them, reassure them, and direct them to the right resources. All seven of our bilingual advocates are meeting with participants remotely to handle financial assistance requests.
“We’ve also been delivering food boxes, when necessary.”