March 25, 2020
COVID-19: IFA Homelessness Updates
Updates for Iowa homeless services providers regarding COVID-19. These updates were complied from the general update emails sent out last week by the IFA Homelessness Team.
We have heard that some shelters and other homeless services providers are having problems obtaining critical supplies, such as hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, and thermometers. Please communicate any needs as soon as possible to county emergency managers and ask for immediate help! HSEMD can help coordinate those logistics, but requests need to come from within the county. If you don’t know who to talk with locally about this, please contact us.
Some agencies have HUD funding such as Emergency Solutions Grant (Rapid Rehousing or Homelessness Prevention) or Continuum of Care funding that require unit habitability inspections to provide assistance.
Many agencies are not doing inspections during this time.There are several efforts underway to pursue a temporary waiver of this HUD requirement. Efforts include:
  • Sending questions for multiple programs through HUD’s online Ask-A-Question help desk.
  • Contacting our HUD field office; communicating with other communities that are also working with their field offices.
  • Contacting HUD headquarters directly, including this response this afternoon from one HUD official in DC: “We are looking at a litany of waivers right now. I know habitability and HQS have been on the list. I’m not sure what our authority will be to waive but we are certainly asking of this is legally permissible. My understanding is that a listserv will be released with this waiver information as soon as we get cleared.” 
Information shared about efforts currently underway around the state.

Shelter House (Iowa City) - Guidelines for case managers for home visits for Rapid Rehousing or Permanent Supportive Housing:
  • Staff will make a phone call in advance of conducting home visits, when possible, and ask screening questions about symptoms. If symptomatic, assist with contacting their health care provider.
  • Staff should provide clients with information on hand washing and other preventative measures.
  • Staff will meet outside the home when possible, and keep 6 foot of distance from the client—consistent with social distancing principles.
  • Staff will use hand sanitizer before and after the visit and will sanitize the agency vehicle after the visit with disinfectant cleaner.
  • If during a home visit a participant exhibits symptoms of fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath, follow CDC recommendations of encouraging participant to call their medical provider. If they do not have a phone, assist in making the call while keeping a social distance.
  • Home visits will not be completed if a client has been given instructions to self-quarantine or has been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus. Support will be given to help the client to comply with these medical instructions (i.e. food assistance). Phone check-ins can be done if that is possible.
  • If clients cannot be contacted and there are concerns of client safety, a welfare check should be completed.

Linn County:
  • All emergency shelters stay open 24/7, including winter overflow shelters
  • This may be a financial ask to whoever covers the cost of the overflow shelters
  • Shelter residents who do not have access to a private living space should have 6ft between sleeping areas
  • Shelter staff should be responsible for sanitizing communal areas several times/day
  • Shelter residents should have access to cleaning products to sanitize areas they feel necessary
  • There must be a designated area for quarantine for those who may test positive with COVID-19
  • This can be within the healthcare system or within individual emergency shelters
  • All case management meetings for housing providers are done virtually
  • These can be done via phone or email

Central Iowa Shelter & Services (Des Moines)
  • Purchasing and installing additional mobile hand-washing stations
  • Going through their list of shelter clients to identify those with a source of income, and prioritizing those for quick housing assistance, to reduce the number of people in shelter. Have engaged some additional funding partners and property managers/landlords to help provide funding and units to carry this out. 
Resources for local governments and nonprofit agencies seeking FEMA public assistance:
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • NAMI Crisis hotlines include Dallas County, 24/7, 1-844-428-3878, Warren County, 24/7, 1-844-258-8858, or general hotline (800) 950-NAMI
  • Crisis Text Line 24/7: HOME to 741741 to connect to a counselor
  • SAMHSA Disaster Distress helpline 24/7 365 days: 1-800-985-5990
  • Mental Health - Your Life Iowa Statewide Crisis Line (855) 581-8111
  • Iowa Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team
  • Mental Health America has some great information and resources
  • Christian Century 
  • Iowa Concern Hotline 800-447-1985
From the Institute for Community Alliances, this is in HMIS for all project types, to help triage clients if needed. It is built off a recent example sent out by HUD and is completely voluntary.
Congress is currently considering a supplemental funding bill to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The Alliance is working with Congress to include funds that would meet the needs of homeless people and support the organizations and community structures that help them. And we need your input. Take the Survey