Blog

COVID 19 Preparedness

Updated April 1, 2020

The health of our community — our clients, residents, staff, volunteers, and the community at large — is of the utmost importance to Housing Matters. As such, we are taking preventative measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and we are working on detailed plans to do everything we can to support the safety and wellbeing of our entire community. 

We know that part of supporting our community means keeping you updated on our response to the pandemic and how the shelter in place mandate is affecting our operations. 

We have recently launched the COVID-19 Response Fund, and are aiming to raise $250,000 to allow agility in our operations and crisis response. Please consider making a gift, if you haven’t already. If you’ve already given, THANK YOU!

 

The Health of Our Clients

We serve people out in the community, and right here in our four on-campus shelters. People experiencing homelessness are, in general, a more vulnerable population. Some of the measures we’re taking that affect clients include:

  • Increased Bed Distance: We’ve set up 10 tents on our campus to enable more space between beds in the Paul Lee Loft, to meet state shelter guidelines. We have 20 more tents on order, which will replace the 10 tents, and add 10 more.
  • Collaboration with Homeless Persons Health Project (HPHP): We are working closely with the County Health Services Agency, specifically with officials at Homeless Persons Health Project (HPHP), which is co-located on our campus. They are advising us on referrals should a client present with symptoms, and best practices for minimizing community spread in a shelter environment.
  • Information Distribution: Our shelter residents, day services clients, and case management clients all rely on Housing Matters as a source of information. We’re disseminating information about the virus as thoroughly as possible to all clients.
  • Isolation Availability: With the support of our residential clients, we’ve been able to clear a 5-bedroom unit on our campus, which is currently ready to take any shelter residents who become ill, allowing them full isolation.
  • Meal Delivery: Normally, all of our shelter residents who receive meals do so in our Dining Hall. However, we’ve set up processes to deliver meals to residents should they be symptomatic in any way, or if they are already especially medically vulnerable.
  • Hand Washing: We’re encouraging more frequent handwashing throughout campus. Large signage is promoting handwashing, and we’re procured some mobile handwashing stations to provide more opportunities to do so.
  • Day Services: Our day services are currently operating without interruption. Restrooms (and now, additional handwashing stations) are open 24/7. Showers are open to the public from 7:00am to 3:00pm. Our mailroom is open 10am to 2pm, Monday through Friday. 
  • Intakes and Assessments: We are committed to our mission of helping people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing. We will continue to conduct intakes and Smart Path Assessments via phone during normal business hours. Those who would like an assessment call can sign up for a callback at the safety kiosk. 
  • Case Management: All of our case managers, housing navigators, and other supportive services staff are continuing their important work from home. Staff is available by phone and email to coordinate with clients, and continue to meet their needs.
  • Increased Sanitation: Our facilities staff has increased their cleaning and sanitizing schedule across campus.
  • Dientes Dental Clinic: Effective immediately, Dientes has informed us that they are open with reduced staff to ONLY serve patients who need emergency dental care with the following schedule:
      • Main clinic: Monday – Friday
      • Watsonville clinic: Monday – Thursday
      • Beach Flats clinic: closed until 3/28/20
      • Outreach program, including care at Housing Matters: Closed until further notice
  • Women’s Group: Our weekly women’s support group is cancelled until further notice

 

The Health of Our Staff

Caring for our staff is always a priority. We always want to make sure staff is healthy and has the means to take care of their health. These are some of the measures we’re taking that affect our staff:

  • Increased Sanitation: Our facilities staff has increased their cleaning and sanitizing schedule across campus, including offices.
  • Working from Home: We’ve enabled all the technological resources available to us to ensure staff can continue to work from home, and we’re equipping home offices as needed to ensure staff are fully supported in continuing their work.
  • Preparedness Planning: Staff has been involved in preparedness planning, and is being consulted with and communicated with regarding major decisions being made.
  • Paid Time Off: We’ve temporarily revised our PTO policies to minimize financial impacts to staff. 
  • State Resources: We are actively ensuring all staff has governmental resources at their fingertips, such as instructions for applying for Disability Insurance, should the need arise.
  • Supportive Communication: We’re encouraging regular, supportive communication among staff, including supervisors and peers. We strive to continue to be a place of support for all staff, even if we’re not all working in one location.
  • Hiring Freeze: We’ve put all hiring on hold, except for positions that are deemed essential to keep day-to-day operations going.

 

The Health of Our Community

Housing Matters believes that keeping our community healthy will require proactive measures from everyone, and we’re taking our role in that seriously. Here are some of the measures we’re taking that affect the larger community:

  • Staying Informed: We will continue to communicate with stakeholders as things change. We encourage all staff, partners and clients to stay informed with the most up-to-date information from federal and state health agencies:
  • Community Tours: We will not be offering any community tours for the foreseeable future.
  • Collaboration: We are working closely with local officials to ensure we are positioned to help the larger community in any way necessary.
  • Volunteers: We are asking our dedicated volunteers to follow the shelter in place protocols and remain at home. We resume volunteer activities on campus when it is safe to do so.
  • Soupline: Our annual benefit event, Soupline, was canceled due to COVID-19. The event was scheduled for April 16. This year’s event was on track to sell out of tickets for the first time in Soupline history, whichtm would have brought over 600 people together to celebrate our community-wide commient to resolving homelessness together.
  • Donations: Soupline would have raised about $100,000 for Housing Matters. Canceling the event greatly impacts our ability to fund our life-changing programs. If you do have the means and inspiration to support Housing Matters, please consider making a donation to keep us doing what we do best. 

We encourage everyone in Santa Cruz County to follow official guidance and orders, treat one another with kindness, patience, and compassion, and to stay engaged with their community while we weather this pandemic together.