|We at 5Cities Homeless Coalition are diligently working to do our part in reducing the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), while serving those most challenged to find shelter.|
While those who are without homes are exempted from the latest directive to “shelter-in-home,” we are working to implement a series of steps to provide shelter options for those living out-of-doors, while working to prevent the transmission of the virus and protect the health of staff, volunteers, visitors and those we serve. Here are the answers to some questions you might have.
What are we hearing from those who are homeless?
We are receiving an increasing number of calls from people seeking assistance. One from a 75-year-old woman who is terminally ill, who was asked to leave her shared housing due to the health crisis. One from a couple in an RV, one of whom is 80 years old, looking for safe parking and facilities. One from an 87-year-old woman who also is living in her vehicle.
These are in addition to several other calls from current clients who have been utilizing our services, including our Winter Warming Center (that opens on cold and rainy nights). See more below.
What are the key issues confronting those who are homeless following the “shelter-in-home” directive?
With the closure of gyms, those living in their cars no longer have access to restroom or bathing facilities. In response we have readied supplies and drafted protocols to potentially open a camping area and/or provide a safe parking area, should an appropriate location be identified and logistics worked out.
Some people who are sharing homes/renting rooms are being asked to leave or having their household privileges confined. One person we spoke with who is in shared housing was told he could no longer use the common areas of the home, including use of the kitchen.
Those who are living out-of-doors are seeking shelter and additional services. Some of them are being bullied because they are not “indoors.” Please understand that for those with nowhere to go, they are not required to be indoors but are required to keep a distance of at least six feet. We are working to ensure people understand this, and to supply them with items for proper hygiene and protection.
We have been in touch with some area restaurants, and their food suppliers, to potentially help develop a community kitchen to create additional meals for those who are homeless and those who may be facing food insecurity due to loss of job, etc. We are especially concerned about service workers and others who may be impacted due to loss of job. Restaurants and food suppliers are standing by for further guidance but are willing to help.
Is 5CHC open for business?
We have closed our office to public visits, while still remaining open to telephone calls for assistance at (805) 574-1638. We are posting updates on our website as well. We are continuing with all services, including information and referral, receiving mail for existing clients, and providing case management and housing assistance to help house those who are homeless and to prevent eviction.
Is the Winter Warming Center open?
The Winter Warming Center is not open at this time. At this point we are likely to open on Sunday, March 22, weather depending.
How can I help?
If you wish to help us in this critical time, we certainly appreciate monetary donations to our emergent need fund. We are challenged to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to our staff, volunteers and clients, and we need donations of masks, gloves, safety goggles and cleaning supplies. If you have extra items available, please contact us. This is one of the greatest challenges our agency, and most other social service agencies, is facing.
5CHC is committed to the care and well-being of staff, volunteers, visitors and those we serve, and will continue to monitor the situation and adopt best practices accordingly.
We are awaiting direction and support from local government agencies, who have been working to secure supplies and advice from state and federal agencies. When that support comes through, we are prepared to continue our work and ramp up as needed. We are in this for the long haul.
Thank You – We Are in This Together
I want to acknowledge the incredible work of our staff and community volunteers and leaders. It has been a very difficult week, and I am so thankful for all that they are doing for those who are homeless—that is, those who are without a secure place where they can “distance themselves.” Through rain, hunger and illness, our staff and many community volunteers and businesses have stretched beyond the obvious and their personal comfort to respond to the neediest among us.
Please know there are heroes among us trying to rise to the challenge. For those who are serving on the front lines, please join me in saying thank you. For those sequestered at home, please know that your place is there, at home, and that staying there is critical. That said, I encourage you to look to additional ways to help your community, if even at a distance.
Thank you for your ongoing support, and please stay safe.