What was the current situation and emergency plans?
- At OurCalling the first thing we did was pulled together over 80 groups who work with the homeless throughout DFW including city council members from the City of Dallas and the leadership at The Office of Homeless Solutions to participate in a weekly conference call. We are using that time for the city, and all the major homeless service providers to share updates and best practices.
- We had temporarily postponed all street outreach, then saw the uptick in homeless encampments so we reengaged our teams.
- All of our staff and volunteers are required to use PPE, we are also distributing masks, gloves, and glasses to the homeless community.
- We are not allowing any vulnerable people groups to volunteer, reducing our volunteer base by 60%. (most of our volunteers are older)
- We created a daily video update, that was being used to keep the community updated and to advise our partners and churches on how they can best help. Things like discouraging churches and individuals from going to the streets with resources, as they would possibly expose the homeless to the virus.
- We have limited the number of homeless people who are able to come into our build for services to under 10 at a time. All our other services have been moved outside. We put 18 FEMA style tents up in our parking lot to provide some shelter from the rain during the day, and we are now serving food outside. Our food service has been extended to help our partners who have also seen a dip in food resource donation. We are now serving for extended hours, and providing large takeaway meals to hold people over through dinner. We also coordinated all the other homeless food providers to serve at the same hours during the day so that as many people as possible are getting meals without duplicated services.
- We are using our Homeless Emergency Broadcast System to communicate the most up to date information.
- We ordered outdoor bathrooms, we purchased outdoor handwashing sinks, we brought in phone charging lockers, we brought in outdoor phones (old phone booths), we rented barriers… the list goes on.
- We are seeing a steady increase in people seeking critical services. As of April 2nd we started seeing non-homeless people coming to us for a hot meal. This is a first for us, people who lost jobs who are living in apartments, that have no food and no place to eat. It feels like something from the great depression as construction workers and restaurant staff are out of work and food.
- We are doing everything we can to minister to our homeless community through this season while providing life-sustaining services.
What were the challenges and funding needs?
- We have seen an 80% drop in food donations. We typically receive 55,000+ pounds of food donations a month from our partners at the foodbank and Sams Club. With this dip, we are now buying bulk food. We have our food cost down to $1.25 per meal. We secured $75,000 in matching donations from our donors and hope to raise an additional $75,000 over the next few weeks. This will hold us over for a bit, but we are also being asked by our partners to provide food for them, so if we are able to raise the funds we will then start delivering food to other homeless service providers.
- We need cell phone charging lockers. This is a very real need, as we have extremely limited outlets outside. Our guests no longer have a good solution for cell phone charging. Arrived March 27.
- We need outdoor phones, and service. Although 80% of the homeless population have cell phones, only about half have service. Many of our homeless friends are desperate to connect with family to check in on them. They are also in need of connecting with social security to receive their funds. 4 outdoor phones arrived on April 8.
- Half of our staff are vulnerable people or are caretakers and live with vulnerable people. We are running on a slim team and will be contracting temp workers. This has hit our general operating budget pretty hard. What we would like to do, is provide any of our staff who are impacted by COVID-19 an additional two weeks of Emergency PTO, costing us over $40,000.
- We are working with some of our donors who own restaurants, and are in the process of building a plan to hire their employees for temp work to make up for our staff who are out. This will cost us an additional $32,000. All of our kitchen staff members had been sent home we hired 11 temp staff who rotate shifts.
- Many of our homeless friends are very high risk, and if they attract COVID-19 it will likely be fatal. We have built a staff care program that would give our staff access to trauma counselors and processing groups. The estimated total annual cost for this will be $28,000
- With the stock market down, we expect that we will see a great decrease in the number of donors in the coming months. We sent out a survey to 50 random donors, based off that data we are preparing for a 25% dip in donations through the month of August, if we are correct we will be taking a $250,000 hit.
What are our concerns (for community and/or your agency)?
- The homeless population has a double vulnerability. The average age of a homeless person in Dallas is 55, they already have a compromised immune system, on top of that they have no place to quarantine if they get sick. We are very aware that the homeless will take one of the greatest hits.
- Churches and families who are at home want to do something, we are worried that they will try to deliver food directly to the homeless population. If they do this, they are putting our homeless neighbors at risk. The homeless population has very little exposure to the housed community, the only way a homeless person will get the virus is if a housed person gives it to them. We are encouraging everyone who is staying at home to keep a distance from the homeless community and to let the Homeless Service Providers do the work.
- We are aware that we will likely take a major financial hit. We have contingency plans in place but we hope to not use them. Most of our staff would be hurt for a long time if they had to miss a paycheck. Our homeless friends desperately need our services.
- We are concerned that many of the homeless population will pass away. This will be extremely hard for our staff as they care deeply for them. We use the term “homeless friend” instead of “client” because they truly are our friends.
- We are concerned that our staff will get sick, and are taking many steps to prevent that. But we need our team, it would be hard to have a few of them put on the bench for a season.
- We are concerned that many of the shelters have moved a number of guests to the streets and away from services to adhere to population restrictions. The guest that are leaving the shelters is coming to us. We need more resources to keep up with the demand.