While grappling with the coronavirus outbreak, workers in the homeless services community have been forced to adapt practices to ensure precautions are taken with the vulnerable community they interact with.
Roy Murdough, the executive director of the homeless shelter on West State Street in downtown Ithaca, issued the following directive on Tuesday to his staff, stating that they were trying to balance the safety of staff and the homeless with providing as many services as possible. The changes, he said, would stay in effect indefinitely.
- The Friendship Center will be open only to those who present as someone in need of bathroom, shower, pantry food, mail or emergencies. Individuals who have someplace else to go (their own residences) will not be allowed to enter. People staying at the shelter can use the Friendship Center to obtain essential needs, they will then be asked to go back to their room or go outside.
- People will not be allowed to “hang out” in the Friendship Center.
- Staff will be expected to fulfill work obligations when not attending to client needs.
- Clients placed in hotels will be expected to stay at the hotel.
- CWP clients will not be transported to the Salvation Army, they will be instructed to walk there and report at an assigned time.
- The shelter is working with our lunch providers to have lunches delivered only in paper lunch bags. We will be suspending any serving of open food for the foreseeable future as it is a potential disease vector. Any food put out by our staff will be in lunch bags. There is to be no open food left out for clients at any time.
- The shelter will be training on a new "sick person presenting" protocol so you know how to respond if someone comes in and tells you they have symptoms or if you recognize symptoms.
- The 1R population will be cut in half with only 4 clients housed there at any one time. The homeless shelter will only allow at most 4 clients in the Friendship Center for Cold Weather. Clients placed at remote sites will be placed at least six feet apart while sleeping.
- New signage to instruct people to wash hands and maintain social distance, also anyone entering the building will be told to wash their hands prior to entry.
- Cleaning constantly is the new mantra.
- The shelter will provide masks for clients who have symptoms that include coughing or sneezing while they are in the Friendship Center.
Murdough ended his memo with "this crisis will end and we will get through it together."
Additionally, Natalya Cowilich of the Families and Children's Services agency issued a call for donations, particularly donations of food (canned/shelf stable preferred), hygiene products, water, toilet paper, and basic needs supplies.
Cowilich also said she's specifically seeking Cornell and IC students who had to leave their apartments but left behind large amounts of food; but any and all donations are appreciated. Cowilich said she is willing to go pick up supplies from people and can be reached at (607) 229-8510 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Supplies will be given to "the homeless and housing insecure vulnerable folks that the Outreach Department focuses on."