An urgent message from Cindy Fox, CEO

 

"We are in a race to save lives."

 

Dear friends of Columbus House,

First, it is my sincere hope that you and your family remain safe during this unprecedented public health crisis. Additionally, I want to thank you for your words of support for our staff, your generous financial contributions to cover our increased costs and for your donations of desperately needed supplies.

I am inspired every day by your generosity and your willingness to help those who are in such desperate need even as you deal with your own hardships at home. We can’t thank you enough for your concern and partnership.

It has been over 2 weeks since the Governor has declared a Public Health Emergency in Connecticut. Since that time, we continue to do everything in our power to protect the health and wellbeing of all who come through our doors seeking shelter and hope.

It has not been easy. With so many people in our care every night, it is a daunting task. Our staff, despite the inherent risks to their own health and wellbeing, are here every day making sure those we serve have what they need. We have worked with our municipal, state, federal and community partners to empty the shelters and thereby reduce the risks of having so many together in one space. We are slowly succeeding.

As of March 13, we have accomplished the following as it relates to relocating people to a safer space:

  • We have moved 58 people out of our shelters and into safer locations
  • 20 have been housed
  • 28 have been relocated to one of two area hotels
  • 10 have moved out with friends, family or to some other positive situation

While this has been an impressive fete, we still must move another 116 people to safer quarters in the next several days in order to mitigate the risk of someone getting sick and spreading the illness throughout the shelter to clients and staff.

You’ve no doubt heard references made to PPE’s or Personal Protective Equipment. These are the masks, gowns and face shields health care professionals need to protect themselves and their patients from the spread of illness. We are in desperate need of this equipment as well and there remains a severe shortage. Our concern is that if the virus gets into the shelter before we can move people out, it will be a catastrophe. According to a report authorized by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA and Boston University, “people experiencing homelessness will be twice as likely to be hospitalized, two to four times as likely to require critical care, and two to three times as likely to die as the general population.”

We are literally in a race to save lives right now.

How can you help?

  • First and foremost, please consider an additional financial contribution to help offset lost fundraising revenue and to help cover unbudgeted costs including additional staff, food and supplies
  • Donate gift cards to area grocery stores so we can purchase food
  • Order restaurant take-out or delivery to one of our sites (Contact Sheree for details)
  • Donate CT Transit bus passes
  • Donate masks, gloves, surgical gowns and other PPE to reduce the spread of the virus
  • Volunteer to make pick-ups and deliveries to those who need food and supplies (Contact Sheree for details)

If you can help in any way, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Sheree DiMario at sdimario@columbushouse.org or 203-401-4400 x138.

I believe that, together, as a community, we will get through this crisis. Thank you for your commitment to helping keep those we serve safe.

 

Thank you,
Cindy Fox
Interim CEO


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3/20/20

 

To our friends:

We hope you and your family are staying safe and navigating this Pandemic that has besieged our country. As I’m sure you’ve heard repeatedly, this crisis is unprecedented.

As you can imagine, we are doing everything in our power to protect those we serve in each of our programs, but especially in the shelters and warming centers. Social distancing is a priority but with 100 people in one building and 75 in another, that is a challenge. We are working with every partner including DOH, DMHAS, the Cities of New Haven, Hamden, Middletown, the Governor’s office, Dept. of Public Health, Yale, Yale New Haven Health, and numerous others to come up with a plan to move people out of the shelter as quickly as possible and into a more appropriate, temporary arrangement. The city has contracted with a hotel to put up 24 of our shelter clients and we will continue to provide services for them at that location. Temporary, scattered site accommodations have also been identified for an additional 27 clients and we hope to have these first 51 moved out by Sunday.

We still have over 150 people who need to be moved out of our shelters. The search for a suitable options continues. We also serve several hundred formerly homeless people who are now in their own apartment and receive case management support. These folks are very vulnerable and were on the fringe even before the pandemic. We are giving them gift cards to purchase groceries, sending meals to them and providing continued support services to ensure they are safe.

Our technology capabilities are stretched to the limit as we try and protect our staff by setting them up to work at home – when possible. Many of us, including food service, facilities and program staff, continue to come into the office. The leadership team is coordinating activities to ensure everyone’s safety. We are incurring additional costs for extra cleaning supplies, protective equipment, additional staff time (we are staying open 24/7 now and asking clients not to leave during the day for their own protection), and doing everything in our power to not lose our dedicated, committed front-line staff who are scared to death but still come to work to serve our clients. Many of our administrative staff are rotating in and out to help the front-line staff.

In order to protect the health and safety of our clients and staff, we had to make the difficult decision to suspend all volunteer-led meal service and restrict volunteers and visitors from entering any of our buildings. While some continue to contribute funds to purchase the meal and some are still sending the food so that our staff can prepare it, we suffered a huge financial blow.

We’ve had to cancel 3 fundraising events which will cost us close to $50,000 in lost revenue and we have no idea what the impact will be with so many of our donors out of work and with the stock market in a tail-spin. We’ve never experienced anything of this scale and magnitude in our lifetime.

How can you help?

  • First and foremost, you could make a desperately needed financial contribution to help offset lost fundraising revenue and to help cover unbudgeted expenses
  • Donate gift cards to area grocery stores so we can purchase food
  • Order restaurant take-out or delivery to one of our sites (Contact Sheree for details)
  • Create cleaning kits for those in supportive housing
  • Donate CT Transit bus passes
  • Volunteer to make pick-ups and deliveries to those who need food and supplies (Contact Sheree for details)

If you can help in any way, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Sheree DiMario at sdimario@columbushouse.org or 203-401-4400 x138.

Our number one priority is to safely get all of those we serve through this crisis. That will not happen without your commitment to help.

Thank you,
Cindy Fox
Interim CEO

 

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