AHH Steps Up Amid Covid-19
Artists Helping the Homeless, like most nonprofits, has been greatly impacted Covid-19. However, AHH moved quickly to adjust operations to protect clients and staff. It also looked to see how it could assist the homeless community which is ill-equipped to deal with the pandemic. AHH has taken the following steps:
- AHH put in place procedures and practices to keep clients and staff free of Covid-19. Up till the end of August only one staff person has tested positive for Covid-19.
- AHH applied for a federal PPP loan so it could keep its staff employed and received the forgivable loan, helping it stay fully staffed.
- AHH, working with local hospitals, applied for and received a grant from the Greater Kansas City Regional COVID-19 Response Recovery Fund. This grant allowed AHH to set up a Shelter in Place location to house homeless people being discharged from hospitals with no safe place to go. This is a safe place that is Covid-free. (See following article.)
- AHH is receiving additional CARES Act funding to continue its Shelter in Place programming and hopes to replicate the program to Douglas County.
Shelter in Place Program
An overlooked issue with Covid-19 was what happens to homeless patients newly discharged from the hospital or detox. How can they follow through on prescribed treatment, get situated in terms of housing and employment, while remaining Covid-free? Also as COVID-19 tightened its grasp on Kansas City, most detox, inpatient treatment and transitional living/sober living programs closed their doors momentarily to formulate a response to the pandemic. When they reopened, it was at reduced capacity or with sharply reduced or delayed admissions.
AHH created its Shelter In Place program to fill this gap. Utilizing a block of rooms at a hotel, the shelter provides those being discharged from detox, hospitals and other facilities, shelter and basic needs while they work with AHH staff to make longer term arrangements. AHH staff were on-site 24/7 to assist clients while AHH’s BE THE CHANGE Program provided transportation and direct assistance.
The initial 3 months were funded by a grant from the Greater Kansas City Regional COVID-19 Response Recovery Fund with additional support from Church of the Resurrection, Redeemer Fellowship and Colonial Church in Prairie Village. The program has been so successful that additional CARES Act funding has been offered and Douglas County is considering having AHH set up similar program.
During its first 3 months, the Shelter In Place Program housed 57 individuals referred by hospitals (60%), detox/recovery facilities (23%), police (4%) and through other sources (13%) . The program also freed up much needed hospital resources.
The program had 12 residents as of July 31. The average stay has been two weeks. During that time, 18 found jobs and 4 entered treatment programs. Others began to address pending legal issues or started counseling. Ten residents moved to Bodhi House, AHH’s respite residence. The program provided a chance to regroup and arrange longer-term placement for 38 people (86% of departures).
Shelter in Place – Personal Stories
Each person’s case is different. For one man, the shelter allowed AHH to re-qualify him with the VA. For another, who’d been released from jail, it allowed him to get his trucking license reinstated and get a trucking job. It meant a chance to stabilize medication, get a job and reunite with family for still another man.
The shelter was home to a young woman who was pregnant. Wanting to be with the father for support, they could not find housing where they could shelter in place as her due date approached. The Shelter In Place program provided basic needs as well as rides to/from medical appointments. The couple, now parents of a daughter, has now moved to an apartment at Finnegan Place, an AHH project.
One woman wrote from her new home, a transitional house arranged through the program, “my deepest gratitude for all the compassion, encouragement and sense of community I received. The rides and assistance with contacts, not to mention a safe, warm place to lay my head. Knowing there would be sustenance gave me the peace and stillness to plan my next steps in the journey. I will forever be indebted for your helping me see brighter days ahead.”