Despite the calendar telling us it is spring, the weather has been cold and damp this week, creating added challenges for the women who just want to go inside for a meal, a place to warm up, a place to rest for a bit. We began our screening efforts at Rosie's Place on Monday to check for risk factors before anyone enters the shelter to protect the community from widespread coronavirus infection. Even we underestimated the heartbreaking challenges and struggles of this seemingly simple task.
For starters, the number of women seeking respite from the elements was enormous, with limitations for safe physical distancing capping the number of women admitted at a single time. There are women we know well and new guests that we are meeting for the first time. One woman was recovering from meningitis, another undergoing treatment for leukemia, and still many others coming using canes and walkers, some carrying all of their personal possessions on their back.
We began the week under a makeshift canopy in the driving rain. But it was the cold that made screening so difficult. No matter the type of thermometer we use (and we've tried many), we had to allow for time for the women to overcome the cold to get a reasonable temperature reading. Many women had been out in the elements for hours before arriving, chilled to the bone, making it impossible to get a temperature reading until they had a chance to warm up. Imagine my dismay when one woman's temperature was below 90 degrees! After some time inside, we were able to register a normal temperature of 97.7 degrees so she could come in from the cold. We are learning and adapting, just as these brave women must do every day, and finding ways to get the women inside as quickly as possible.
In Boston, we are starting to see beds become available for the homeless who require isolation because they have COVID-19 but do not need a ventilator. That is a blessing. Still, there are not yet places where traumatized women can feel safe to go for care, but we continue to raise the issue and hope for future plans to include the safety concerns of women.
I am so grateful to the many who have read about our work and responded with additional support for our programs. This terrible virus knows no boundaries when it comes to geography, gender, or economic status. We are all doing our best to live with the fear of what comes next with this pandemic. Your compassion for others is heartening in these otherwise dark times.
We will come through this together. Until then, there is much work to do.