Housing Forward Response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

As we monitor the rapidly changing COVID-19 issue, Housing Forward’s goal has been to provide uninterrupted shelter services, while safeguarding health and welfare of our clients, volunteers and staff. We added this webpage as a centralized source of information about our response to COVID-19.  Please check back to this page for more information as updates become available. 

   CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO OUR EMERGENCY RESPONSE FUND   


Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19 Social Services Resource Guide Available Online

The Village of Oak Park, the Community Mental Health Board, and Oak Park and River Forest Townships have collaborated to create the COVID-19 Social Services Resource Guide. The organizations listed (including Housing Forward) are accepting clients and providing resources to all residents during this time.  
 
 
 

Clients relocated from 24-hour-a-day shelter to individual accommodations

Sunday, March 22, 2020 4:30pm

Because of our concern for the health and safety of clients, volunteers and staff during the Coronavirus outbreak, we closed our 24 hour-a-day shelter site. All clients were moved individual accommodations effective Sunday March 22.

We take this action after learning that a staff member who visited the PADS shelter in Oak Park has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee is at home recuperating. At this point we are not aware of any other staff members or shelter clients who have the virus or are exhibiting symptoms.

We are working with Village of Oak Park and State of Illinois public health officials to follow the necessary protocol for notifying those who may had had direct contact to take necessary CDC recommend precautions. We appreciate their support in making necessary accommodations for our clients.

Out of an abundance of caution we are asking all our team members to work remotely beginning Monday morning, March 23.  They will work to provide all clients the support and services they need, especially during this dynamically changing situation.

We appreciate the work of our dedicated volunteers through this challenging time. Previously scheduled shelter volunteers and meal providers are no longer needed at the Oak Park Temple site. We will likely be reaching out in the coming days as we discover what our needs are going forward.

We will continue to keep our clients, supporters and friends informed about our activities during the COVID-19 outbreak. Please check back to this page for updates.

Click here to donate to our Emergency Response Fund to help us maintain shelter, food, and essential services for our clients. 

 


PADS Shelter Update

March 20, 5PM

The past week has been rapidly evolving situation unlike anything we’ve ever experienced.  Front-line providers across the nation who are trained to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness, are facing a truly unprecedented emergency. We are doing everything within our resources and labor-force to enact the best possible practices to ensure the health and safety of our clients, volunteers and staff, based on the recommendations of local and county public health officials, HUD and the CDC.

Volunteers are the life-blood of Housing Forward and your commitment throughout this evolving situation has been heartwarming and humbling. Thank you!

Effective Tuesday, March 17th, Housing Forward centralized PADS Shelter services and Support Center services at one location at Oak Park Temple (thank you Rabbi Weiss!), 1235 N. Harlem Avenue, Oak Park. This centralization will be in effect through March 31.  We are finalizing location plans for April. 

With volunteer questions contact Enid Johnson at ejohnson@housingforward.org or 708.338.1724 ext. 220.

Here are updated volunteer procedures related to this location:

  1. Upon arrival, please park in the lot on the south side of the building or on the street
  2. Please enter through the main door in the rotunda, not the door directly adjacent to the parking lot.
  3. After entering the rotunda doors, please:
  • Sign in at the volunteer sign-in table (Please do not bring children to volunteer at this time.)
  • Apply hand sanitizer
  • Put on protective gloves
  • Face masks are available on request and based on availability
  1. The site captain or shift leader will orient you to the building and the volunteer task.

While all shelter clients have been screened for COVID-19 symptoms, social distancing is recommended by the CDC and other medical experts. Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space by between people by at least six feet.

Food preparers and services:

Meals are now exclusively served from the upstairs kitchen. Please avoid bringing pork products (ham/bacon/sausage/pepperoni etc.) inot the building. Hand sanitizer use should be strongly encouraged among our client population, volunteers and staff particularly, if possible, before, during and after dinner.

When serving dinner in shelter:

Prior to clients presenting at shelter, number all the tables in the dining area. When clients arrive, all volunteers should provide service within the kitchen only and use kitchen gloves when plating food. In the kitchen, food should be served onto plates and then placed on a tray. Volunteers will serve food via trays to tables of four clients. Condiments and drinks should also be placed on the neutral table prior to serving (individual packets have already been provided)

Please clean-up kitchen after each meal service (dishes, countertops, etc.)

•             Please abide by the garbage and composting rules and separate containers

•             Fill out the supply sheet for needed items

Some things for Volunteers to remember:

Please DO THE FIVE to help stop coronavirus

  1. Wash or sanitize your hands often
  2. Cough into your elbow
  3. Do not touch your face
  4. Keep social distance of 3 feet or more
  5. If you are feeling ill in any way, please use caution and stay at home. 

If you are over 60 years of age, please do not volunteer.

Regarding the Oak Park Public Order to Shelter-in-Place
The Village of Oak Park COVID-19 Public Health Order requires residents to shelter in place Fri., March 20 through Friday, April 3.  Our 24/7 emergency shelter is now located at Oak Park Temple so village officials have assured us that Housing Forward Volunteers and Staff are exempt from restrictions when working on our behalf.
Per section 10 “Definitions and Exemptions” (Page 5 & 7)

f. For the purposes of this Order, “Essential Businesses” and “Essential Travel” means:

iv. Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals.

ii. Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable  persons;

To make it clear to authorities who is working with our agency, we have created a volunteer placard to be printed out at home and displayed on a car dashboard (link).

The Illinois state-wide Shelter in Place Order includes similar travel exemptions.

We hope that this information is helpful and will provide a safe environment for volunteers and clients together during your much-appreciated volunteer service.

If you know anyone who would benefit from knowing this information, kindly share it.


A Message for Our Volunteers:

March 19, 4:00PM

The Village of Oak Park COVID-19 Public Health Order requires residents to shelter in place from 12:01am Fri., March 20 through 11:59pm Fri., April 3.

Our 24/7 emergency shelter is now located at Oak Park Temple so village officials have assured us that Housing Forward Volunteers and Staff are exempt from restrictions when working on our behalf.

Per section 10 “Definitions and Exemptions” (Page 5 & 7)
         
f. For the purposes of this Order, “Essential Businesses” means:
             iv. Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of  life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;
   
     h: For the purposes of this Order, “Essential Travel” includes travel for any of the following  purposes.
     
   i. Any travel related to the provision of or access to Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, Essential Businesses, or Minimum Basic Operations:
    
      ii. Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable  persons;

To make it clear to authorities who is working with our agency, we have created a volunteer placard to be printed out at home and displayed on a dashboard. If you did not receive it in an email, please contact communications@housingforward.org and the file will be sent to you.

As has always been our message, if a volunteer is feeling ill, has a compromised immune system, or is over 65, we encourage them to stay at home. We hope they would arrange a substitute for their shift, especially our food providers.

Housing Forward and our clients are very grateful for the commitment of our volunteers during this emergency situation.

More thanks...

Housing Forward would like to express our gratitude to the following:

  • Rabbi Max Weiss and the Oak Park Temple Congregation for the generous use of their space. 
  • The Oak Park Township and Park District of Oak Park for loaning us their shuttles and shuttle drivers to transport our clients from shelter to our Maywood Support Center for showers. 
  • The Oak Park Public Library for a loaning reading materials and laptops to our sheltered clients
  • Beyond Hunger for arranging food delivery
  • The staff and volunteers who have done what needs to be done to assist our clients
  • Community members who have donated supplies and food

PADS Shelter Update

March 16, 6:45PM

There has been a great deal of new and changing information again today about how our agency should be responding to COVID-19.  

We are doing everything within our resources and labor-force to enact the best possible practices to ensure the health and safety of our clients, volunteers and staff, based on the recommendations of local and County public health officials, HUD and the CDC.

Starting tomorrow morning, Tuesday, March 17th, Housing Forward is implementing the following changes to our programming:

SHELTER

  • Beginning at 7:30am on Tuesday, Housing Forward will centralize PADS Shelter services and Support Center services at one location at Oak Park Temple (thank you Rabbi Weiss!), 1235 N. Harlem Avenue, Oak Park.  This centralization will be in effect through March 30.
  • The shelter will operate from two floors, the basement where the shelter normally operates and the second-floor social hall.
  • Women and families will be in the lower level with separate bathrooms and kitchen. Men will be located upstairs with separate bathrooms and a kitchen.
  • All scheduled PADS Shelter volunteer shifts and meal-preparation shifts are continuing as scheduled. Food volunteers are receiving a separate and specific food preparation email.
  • HF’s Community Health Nurse will be based at this location for the next two weeks and will guide the health screening of all clients.

SUPPORT CENTER

  • The services normally provided at the Support Center will be provided at this location through the same time frame with the exception of showers and laundry.
  • We are working to develop transportation to arrange for clients to access showers starting on March 18th.

OAK PARK – WALK-IN CENTER, 6634 W. Roosevelt Road, 2nd floor, remains open for at-risk households in need of emergency financial assistance, per regular office hours.

SUPPORTIVE HOUSING and SOJOURNER HOUSE -  staff assigned to checking-in with clients by telephone regularly. Clients who report that they are sick will be encouraged to call their primary healthcare provider. 

We are working with our local governments and public health bodies to expand local resources that will allow the most effective response to the needs of people experiencing homelessness and at risk of homelessness. We will keep you updated on our progress. 

How You Can Help:

The incredible response of the community has been a rare bright spot in this emergency situation past week.  Thank you!  We currently have pressing needs in the following areas:

Donations

Our response to the COVID-19 outbreak will ensure those experiencing homelessness will be able to “Shelter-in-place” at individual accommodations.  Your support will help underwrite the unexpected expenses that accompany this effort,  including accommodations and meals.

Supplies

We need the following things for our housed clients:

  • Medical Gloves
  • Disposable Medical Facemasks
  • Women’s and Men’s Underwear, assorted sizes
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Bleach
  • Paper Towels
  • Toilet Paper
  • Grab & go meals and snacks such as pre-packaged sandwiches, granola bars, fruit and bottled water. Please check with us before donating sandwiches!

We have recently updated our Amazon Smile Wish List if you would prefer to arrange a delivery online. If you are dropping off an in-kind donation, please heed the current recommendations for social distancing. We are happy to meet you at your car to receive your donation at 1851 S. 9th Ave. in Maywood. Please call 708.338.1724, option 0, to arrange this with Sandra Stillo, our Office Manager.

Volunteers
As the situation evolves there may be additional volunteer needs that we’re not currently aware of, so please stay tuned. Please contact Enid Johnson at volunteer@housingforward.org or 708.338.1724 (ext. 220) if you have questions about volunteering.

Funds
This evolving situation has led to a growing number of unexpected costs for Housing Forward. We know that in the coming weeks, we will be purchasing additional food and shelter supplies, arranging additional transportation for clients, and arranging motel/SRO stays for our most vulnerable clients. As the situation continues, we anticipate there will be more unexpected costs and financial donations are very much appreciated. To make a donation to our COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, click here.
 
To stay current with our agency’s response to COVID-19, click here https://www.housingforward.org/covid-19-updates.
 


Update for the Weekend of March 13-15

March 12

To ensure we stay informed and prepared, we are in communication with the Village of Oak Park’s Public Health Department and the Cook County Department of Public Health. We are up to date on HUD’s recommendations via Infectious Disease Preparedness for Homeless Assistance Providers and Their Partners. Finally, we are in the process of enacting current recommendations from the CDC guidance for homeless shelters.

Measures we have implemented within our programs:

  • Enhanced sign-in and symptom identification efforts and protocols to address anyone needing medical assistance in both our Support Center and PADS Emergency Shelter sites.
  • Additional health education among staff and clients focused on the symptoms and proper hygiene practices to prevent spread of the virus
  • Increased vigilance on cleaning procedures, use of disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and proper food safety procedures in our PADS Emergency Shelter sites and Support Center.
  • Maximizing the distance between pads to 3-6 feet where possible, particularly for anyone showing signs of any illness.
  • More frequent communications between all shelter participants, Support Center clients and volunteers.
  • Increased Case Management staff check-ins and well-being checks with their housed clients

We are following these health and safety actions:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. Official DCHD Hand Washing Guidelines
  • Cover your cough/sneeze with a tissue or your elbow. Official DCHD Household Guidelines
  • Limit physical contact such as shaking hands. Wear gloves.
     
  • Avoid close contact with people who appear sick.
    • Also called “social distancing” – it is recommended to keep 3-6 feet from anyone coughing or sneezing.
       
  • Sanitize frequently touched surfaces (tables, doorknobs, counters, pads, fixtures). Wear gloves.
    • A diluted bleach solution works for most items. Allow 10 minutes to air dry where possible.
    • Other disinfectants may be used – follow each item’s labeling.
       
  • To avoid recontamination, use paper towels, not rags. Wipe down items in one direction (i.e. left-to-right or back-to-front).
     
  • Handle and serve food in a safe manner
  • Food should be served in the following manner wherever possible:
    • If possible, ensure that food, drinks, and utensils are served to guests. Do not allow self-service buffets or “family-style” service.
    • Ensure that the plate is not handled by the guest until the end of the line; do not pass plates back and forth between the guest and the server.
    • Ensure plates are not reused for second servings. Paper plates and plasticware are good alternatives.
    • Disposable gloves must be worn when serving food.
       
  • Staff will be screening clients for potential risk and referring to appropriate health providers as necessary.

Additional best practices specific to serving those that are facing homelessness:

  • Engage clients to empower them to be a part of the solution.
    • Clients can take the linens off their pads and place in the bags.
    • Clients can help with extra cleaning of surfaces.
       
  • Simplify menus to reduce the number of volunteers needed to prepare and serve food

We ask our community to continue practicing kindness given possible stigma associated with the virus; we don’t want our already vulnerable clients to feel in any way ostracized during this time.


Our partners at The Oak Park Homelessness Coalition are recruiting for the Coronavirus Crisis Response Team.

Help is needed in the following areas:

  • Food delivery
  • Transportation to and from shelters
  • Volunteer at day time shelters
  • Volunteer at overnight shelters

If you can help, please sign up here: https://www.endhomelessnessoakpark.com/covid


Here are some resources regarding COVID-19 and Housing Forward’s response:

General Information