Responding to COVID-19 for a year - and continuing
If you’ve followed us for the last year, you’ve seen that we’ve dramatically changed the way we shelter people. We originally ran a network of 15 shelter sites at community faith-based organizations, which relied on more than 1000 volunteers. These congregate shelters effectively housed large groups of guests for the night, but they created ideal conditions for COVID-19 infection and transmission. After Illinois’ COVID-19 Emergency Declaration, we reshaped our shelter services to align with Centers for Disease Control, Office of Housing and Urban Development and Illinois Department of Public Health recommendations.
We first consolidated our shelter network into a single, 24/7 site with comprehensive distancing, sanitary, and entry/exit protocols. We asked volunteers to remain home and placed families and individuals with preexisting medical conditions in area motels. Now, all shelter clients are in motels thanks to CARES funding that covers a substantial portion of the cost. Homeless families are placed in Transitional Shelter apartments, leased by BEDS.
Since our organized response to COVID-19 began on March 16, 2020 we’re proud to report that we’ve:
- Sheltered 423 unique individuals
Rehoused 83 unique individuals who were in our shelter system
$500,000 in prevention rental assistance delivered
We’ve focused on meeting shelter clients’ needs during this difficult time, including:
Clinical Director Shannon Goold describes how, “Our rotating congregate shelters gave clients more than warm, safe places to spend the night. They provided a caring community that we sorely miss.” Moving to motel rooms has created stress for many who used our shelters. Some have described feeling isolated and unsure about the future. In the worst cases, motel-based sheltering has triggered behavioral health conditions, like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Board Member Leland Albright, pastor of caring ministries at Grace Lutheran Church of La Grange, volunteers as the BEDS Chaplain, brings comfort to many of our shelter guests with regular phone calls and visits.
Vaccines are the best way to protect our shelter clients and communities; however, some of our clients have been reluctant due to common misconceptions and behavioral health conditions like paranoia and anxiety. Our case managers work one-on-one with clients to educate them about the benefits and risks of the vaccine, and we’ve partnered with Pillars to give them easy access. We’re also working with the Cook County Public Health Department to set up a mobile vaccination unit at one or more of our motel shelter locations. To date, 44 clients have been vaccinated.
BEDS Plus has provided an average of 12,000 meals a month to our shelter, housed and prevention clients. These include donations of fresh and shelf-stable items and meals prepared by volunteers and restaurants. This is the equivalent of at least $30,000 a month in generous in-kind contributions from our communities.
The need for emergency rental assistance is expected to continue unabated in the upcoming months. BEDS is participating with many other agencies in Cook County and State programs to deliver millions of dollars of rental and mortgage assistance intended to mitigate the continuing economic hardship of those negatively impacted by COVID19 income loss.
The COVID19 pandemic shone a harsh light on a striking gap in safety-net services for residents of suburban Cook County, particularly those who are medically vulnerable and chronically homeless. County CARES funding has provided opportunities to develop lasting infrastructure improvements to delivery of coordinated care for Suburban Cook residents who are poor and homeless.
BEDS Plus is developing an interim housing program and additional service center to help close this gap. Plans will be unveiled in April. Stay tuned!