December 25, 2020
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COVID-19 has been tearing by sheltered residing areas in San Jose, however a minimum of one operator of such services has managed to maintain all of its girls residents secure in the course of the pandemic.
CityTeam, which presents non permanent housing to folks in want, has to date saved its 4 girls’s shelters in San Jose COVID-free, though it has had a couple of publicity scares, mentioned Melody Alvarado, director of the group’s girls’s program. It is performed that by being vigilant and cautious — and by decreasing the variety of folks it homes, she mentioned.
“We have had a number of exposures the place we have needed to stroll by the quarantine course of, testing, doing the isolation and the contact tracing,” Alvarado mentioned. “However we have had zero constructive instances, which is superb to have the ability to say that.”
CityTeam girls’s shelters in San Jose supply transitional housing for brand new moms, girls recovering from substance abuse, those that’ve suffered from home violence and girls getting old out of foster care.
When the epidemic started to take maintain within the metropolis, CityTeam modified the way in which it operates. To guard present residents from the coronavirus, the group stopped taking in new ones. It began holding conferences over Zoom. And it restricted volunteer work to only what might be performed on-line.
It additionally remoted and examined residents who had been uncovered to the virus to forestall an outbreak.
CityTeam reduces variety of folks in shelters
However maybe the most important change Alvarado and her workforce made in response to COVID-19 was to scale back the variety of folks they serve. The ladies’s shelter program has been operating its services at about two-thirds capability. Its Home of Grace facility beforehand may home as much as 24 folks; now it is all the way down to 18. Likewise, its Heritage Dwelling shelter now presents housing to only eight folks, down from 12 previous to the onset of the epidemic.
Well being consultants have warned concerning the distinctive risks confronted by shelters in the course of the pandemic. As a result of residents can discover it laborious to socially distance in such services, COVID-19 can unfold extra simply, Santa Clara County deputy public well being officer Dr. George Han warned.
“What occurs is as instances rise in the neighborhood, that additionally means there’s extra instances that get launched into these congregate settings,” he mentioned. “We’ve been seeing outbreaks enhance over the previous few weeks.”
CityTeam’s males’s shelters have seen a smattering of instances all through the epidemic.
Mary, a homeless resident att the Roosevelt Park encampment, mentioned she’s pleased CityTeam’s girls’s shelters had no constructive instances.
“Girls’s shelters have a number of home abuse survivors,” mentioned Mary, who requested that her final title be withheld for worry of individuals studying her homeless standing. “Realizing there is not any (COVID-19) there would possibly get extra girls to signal on.”
Outbreaks at different shelters
Different San Jose shelters have not been as profitable in stopping the unfold of COVID-19.
HomeFirst’s Boccardo Reception Heart noticed a couple of instances every month earlier than getting hit with 55 new ones following the native resurgence of the pandemic in November.
“The factor with congregate residing areas is that they reply to no matter is going on within the higher neighborhood, and so our neighborhood started to spike round Thanksgiving,” HomeFirst CEO Andrea Urton mentioned. “We instantly quarantined folks after which we partnered with the county to get them in a resort or a motel to allow them to be socially remoted.”
Of the greater than 100 individuals who have been faraway from Boccardo Reception Heart, greater than 61 residents have since accomplished the quarantine interval and have been cleared to return.
Like CityTeam, HomeFirst has put in place measures to attempt to restrict outbreaks. The group spent $20,000 on ultraviolet lights to disinfect surfaces. It changed all of the air filters in its shelter services with high-efficiency particulate absorbing, or HEPA, ones. Such filters can forestall the virus from being unfold by the air when somebody coughs or sneezes.
HomeFirst additionally diminished its capability. Whereas it was as soon as sheltering round 250 folks an evening at Boccardo, it is now restricted the middle to only 110.
And it is taken steps to make sure residents can socially distance whereas they sleep, separating them from one another by empty beds.
“We’ve issues as little as folks sleeping head-facing-toes, that approach if someone does cough or sneeze, they’re coughing onto someone’s ft,” Urton mentioned.
“We went eight-and-a-half months and not using a spike in incidents at any of our services,” she added. “I feel that speaks volumes for a way laborious our workers has labored.”
Emotions of isolation
At its males’s services, CityTeam has taken related steps to attempt to shield residents from COVID-19.
It in the reduction of on the variety of folks it homes from about 50 residents to only 27. It additionally not too long ago elevated its frequency of testing residents for COVID-19 from as soon as a month to as soon as per week. And it quickly ceased providing in a single day stays for walk-in prospects to forestall them from spreading coronavirus to present residents.
“The shoppers we have now proper now are working, and if they don’t seem to be working, they’re sheltering-in-place,” mentioned James Alvarado, an operations supervisor in CityTeam’s San Jose workplace.
The stringent measures CityTeam and different shelter operators have put in place to forestall outbreaks have their downsides. They cannot function many individuals. And people they will serve usually really feel remoted or lonely.
The social distancing guidelines at CityTeam’s girls’s shelters prohibit residents from having guests and from visiting folks exterior their households. Many residents lengthy to collect with their households once more, Melody Alvarado mentioned.
“The largest struggles our girls are having just isn’t having a number of household interplay and the liberty to do what all of us are experiencing as nicely,” she mentioned. “They need this to be over. They’re bored with being inside and get just a little bored wanting on the similar partitions on a regular basis.”
Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or observe him @vicentejvera on Twitter.
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