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   


Oct. 2, 2020

We know that our amazing volunteers will be key to the success of our new interim housing program.

We sincerely appreciate reconnecting virtually with site captains and meal providers and hope many will continue to lend their time and resources in our NEW Interim Housing model. Through this email, we’re sharing the information that was discussed.
 
Volunteer Teams and Meal Providers can continue on their regular scheduled day/week of the month as in previous seasons. New volunteers should visit our volunteer page and fill out a Volunteer Profile here.

 

In addition to the shifts you are familiar with, there are additional volunteer opportunities, and we’d SO APPRECIATE YOUR support. 

These include:
FRONT DESK MONITORS
Duties include but not limited to:

  • Watching cameras
  • Organizing supplies & donations
  • Light administrative tasks
  • Receive and store meal deliveries

CLIENT NEEDS ASSISTANT:
Duties include but not limited to:

  • Fielding client concerns
  • Reporting on larger needs that need to be addressed
  • Assisting clients in rooms

Your patience is appreciated as we work out the details of our new processes in a new space. As always, our primary focus is the safety of our volunteers and clients.

We look forward to working alongside you in this exciting new program. Please do not hesitate to contact me at ejohnson@housingforward.org if you have questions. 
 
Gratefully,
Enid Johnson
Volunteer and Community Outreach Manager
708.338.1724 x220


Sept. 23, 2020

 

Dear Friend,

With no end in sight to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Housing Forward is at a crossroads regarding our PADS Emergency Shelter program.  Under normal circumstances, the Shelter program would start its 28th season this month.

At a virtual meeting with the pastors of our congregation partners in early August, it was   reconfirmed that the program’s shelter sites will not be available this fall.  While disappointing, this news is not surprising.  More importantly, it provides an opportunity to reimagine and create a newly improved program-model that meets the needs of our clients more comprehensively.

Housing Forward is excited to announce that we have negotiated a one-year exclusive lease of the Write Inn, a historic boutique hotel immediately north of downtown Oak Park. The leasing of the entire 65-room hotel is a move that follows a national trend of nonprofit organizations serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness by utilizing empty hotel space to safely house clients. 

Our plan is to convert our long-running shelter program from a rotating (overnight-only) model into a new 24/7 Interim Housing model. This location and accommodations serve as an ideal opportunity to design a program model that offers a safe environment and a temporary place for people to stabilize while they seek a permanent housing destination.  While certain program design details are still being worked out, the key components of the new Interim Housing Program will include: 

•  Individual rooms with beds, bathrooms, and storage for personal items.
•  Food and/or meals (two or three per day) prepared by volunteers from the agency’s network
    of 40+ congregations.
•  Structured programming with intake and assessment, housing-oriented wrap-around
    services, case management, on-site health assessments, screenings, and assessments for   
    employment and/or entitlement benefit supports.
•  Connecting clients to housing resources and ending their homelessness as soon as possible. 

As with the PADS Emergency Shelters, volunteers will be vitally important to the new Interim Housing Program. 

We have developed an initial a list of volunteer and meal service opportunities, which are listed below in the FAQs.  Please contact Enid Johnson at ejohnson@housingforward.org to learn more

The program will partner with Cook County Health, and the 40+ local faith communities who have hosted and supported homeless programs for 27 years. This exciting development will change how we provide shelter services for the most vulnerable in suburban Cook County.  We look forward to keeping you informed of our progress.

FAQs for Volunteers:

Isn’t this a new 24-hour shelter?

We have suspended the PADS Rotating Emergency Shelter program due to the inability of faith community partners to host clients during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. This is a new and different program model that will provide a safe, 24-hour-a-day environment and a temporary place for people to stabilize while they seek a permanent housing destination. The goal of this new program model is a natural evolution of our long-standing PADS model; the goal of our traditional PADS shelter program was to provide immediate overnight shelter as a response to someone’s housing crisis. While a safety net is still crucial to our local crisis response, we know in order to end someone’s homelessness, we must more intentionally address the root causes of their housing crisis. The new Interim Housing model will include structured programming with intake and assessment, housing-oriented wrap-around services, case management, on-site health assessments, screenings, and assessments for employment and/or entitlement benefit supports.

Why can’t the churches continue their shelter efforts?

Illinois is in Phase Four of the Coronavirus Reopening Plan which limits gatherings to 50 individuals or less, with proper social distancing; Phase Five will likely be after a treatment or vaccine. Most of the area faith communities are still holding remote worship and not using their buildings until it is safer for group activities to begin again. They’ve indicated how difficult it would be to host the shelter and organize volunteers for shelter support and meal service.

Why the Write Inn?

 The location and accommodations of this 65-room boutique hotel serve as an ideal opportunity for Housing Forward to design a program model that offers a safe environment and a temporary place for people to stabilize while they seek a permanent housing destination.  Other benefits:

  • It’s centrally located with convenient access to public amenities and public transportation;
  • It’s ADA accessible (a long-standing issue with the PADS shelter sites not being accessible);
  • A projected reduction in turn-aways as we will have a constant bed-count for approximately 80 clients;
  • It’s based in Oak Park where the majority of our volunteer base reside.

The Write Inn has sat empty since March 2020 when the pandemic struck and operators do not see a reopening soon based upon declining travel and tourism trends due to the pandemic. This program puts the building to productive use and assists the owner of this local business financially. The owners genuinely feel that serving the needs for those with no home is the right use of their hotel during the pandemic. 

In short, the Write Inn is right for our clients, right for Housing Forward, and right for hotel owners. 

What is the medical respite program with Cook County Health?

Medical respite is short-term residential care that allows individuals experiencing homelessness who are too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury on the streets, but are not ill enough to be in a hospital. This care provides the opportunity to rest in a safe environment while accessing medical care and other supportive services. We are partnering with Cook County Health, who will oversee the medical aspects of this program.  One floor will be dedicated to medical respite.

How will meals be provided?

The hotel does not have meal facilities.  We will be working with meal teams that have assisted with the PADS Emergency Shelters by providing hot dinners, continental breakfast, and sack lunches.  Unlike the shelter model, meal distribution will require individual portioning and distribution to align with COVID-19 safety best practices. 

Will volunteers be needed? 

Yes!  Volunteer resources will be vital in operating a 24-hour-a-day program.  In addition to meal preparation, we will need Site Captains and trained volunteers to provide support to staff and provide socialization for guests.  Opportunities include:

Daytime Volunteers: breakfast/lunch set-up, clean-up; laundry (when rooms turnover),organizing supplies, front desk monitoring, assisting with client needs;

Evening Volunteers: dinner distribution, assisting with client needs, monitoring;

Overnight Volunteers: monitoring.

To learn more or sign-up for a volunteer opportunity,  contact Enid Johnson at ejohnson@housingforward.org or 708.338.1724 ext. 222.

From our very beginning, Housing Forward and our supporters have done what it takes to respond to the needs of those experiencing housing instability in west suburban Cook County. This important new project is a bold step in building for the future.


Lynda Schueler
Executive Director


July 22

Executive Director Lynda Schueler and members of our staff were pleased to chat with State Representative Emanuel "Chris" Welch about our agency’s current crisis response, emergency housing assistance and resources available to those in the communities we serve, including his constituents in the 7th Congressional District. Click here to listen.

 
 
 

 

July 20

Housing Forward Can Help You Respond to the COVID-19 Crisis

We realize this is a challenging time. We are here to help. Are you suffering from job loss or loss of income? Don’t wait to get the help you need.

Emergency Housing Assistance

Behind on rent or mortgage? Notice of eviction? Call the Suburban Cook Call Center at 877.426.6515 for phone pre-screening to determine initial eligibility for services or visit The HUB: www.bit.ly/HF_COVIDEmergencyRentalAssistance to complete the online referral form. 

Click here for information about our Emergency Rental Assistance Program in English y en Español.

Apply for Unemployment

If you have lost your job or have had your hours reduced due to COVID-19, apply for unemployment. This program has been expanded to meet the needs of COVID-19 job losses. Click here.

Get Free Financial Counseling

Write down all the expenses that you still will owe month to month and update your budget. Non-profit financial counselors are available to assist at www.nfcc.org

Apply for Assistance with Essential Needs

Resources are available for:

SNAP - Previously called food stamps, this program helps pay for groceries. 

WIC - Help with healthy food for children & pregnant women

Food Pantries - Many area pantries are still operating

Medical Insurance: Medicaid - Low income, full coverage health insurance. Income too high? Click here for Health Insurance Marketplace

Has loss of childcare impacted your ability to get to work and you are an essential job? Search here for those still providing childcare.

Need immediate shelter?

Are you in an unstable living situation? Call Housing Forward (708) 338-1724 and ask about immediate shelter and outreach services.

Are You Eligible for Cash Assistance?

If you have children, are disabled or are a senior you may qualify for cash assistance through the Illinois Department of Human Services website found here. Help may also be available directly from the townships in our service area. (See a complete list here.)

Get Help Finding Employment

Many essential businesses are hiring to meet the needs of the community. Unemployment resources at Illinois Job Link and information about Housing Forward Employment Programs can be found here.

 

Don’t wait to get the help you need. If we cannot directly assist you, we will connect you with those who can. 

 


June 17

Exciting News: 110 men, women and families are moving from hotels to permanent homes!

We believe that no one sheltered temporarily due to the pandemic should return to the street so the next step in our response to the COVID-19 crisis is to move 110 men, women, and families from hotels to permanent homes!  

Starting July 1, we will begin to move clients from hotels/motels into their own apartments.  This is a major undertaking and we need the community support. Our goal this summer is to collect 110 “Hotel to Home” Kits (that’s right 110!) containing all the common household necessary to make an empty apartment into a home, such as linens and towels, dishes, coffee pot, cleaning supplies, etc.

To learn more about how to get involved, please click here.


June 4

Virtual Gathering

PADS Emergency Shelter supporters—Pastoral Leaders, Site Coordinators, Site Captains, and Meal Providers joined a Virtual Gathering via Zoom entitled “Beyond the Crisis: Navigating the Road Ahead”

Lynda Schueler, Executive Director and Jim Heininger, President of the Board of Directors offered this forum as a way for our agency to hear from key stakeholders as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis together.

The agenda featured:

  • Overview of our COVD-19 response to date
  • Sharing next steps through the summer
  • Talking through long term planning
  • Q&A and open discussion

A recording of this meeting including a shared slideshow can be viewed on YouTube by clicking here.

        


May 28

We are committed to supporting clients with lodging and basic needs through this crisit. Since March 23 we have been able to provide 6,663 individual nights of shelter and 19,989 meals to 65 people who were experiencing homelessness when the COVID-19 crisis became, and about 55 additonal client referrals since. Here's a look at what it takes to deliver meals for just one weekend.

(Click image or here to launch YouTube video.)


April 28

Now that the Illinois Shelter-in-Place Order has been extended through the end of May, the need to continue our efforts to provide a place for our clients to shelter-in-place extends as well. Our volunteers have been awe-inspiring over the past month, and we need them to keep donating and delivering meals to clients in temporary housing. By theend of May, an estimated 3,300 nights of shelter and nearly 10,000 meals will have been given—assisting almost double the number of people we do in our normal shelter program. Our online volunteer link is at www.housingforward.org/get-involved.

Our Emergency Response COVID-19 Appeal has offically kicked off as we ask our supporters to help us cover unexpected expenses we are incurring daily as we safeguard our clients during this crisis and beyond through uncertain economic times. Giving to the appeal is an ideal way to come together as one community to life up those among us who are especially vulnerable.

Lynda Schueler and Jim Heininger, President of our Board of Directors, joined forces to send an updated message last weekend to be aired during the "Stay Home" Marathon organized by the Straughan family. We appreciated the energy put into the event, as they ran difference distances around their Oak Park bakyard. Several news outlets covered the day-long event, which so far has rasied over $18.5K for Housing Forward and Beyond Hunger. 

  

(Click image to launch YouTube video.)

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 during this time.
  

April 20

Our census of emergency shelter clients now staying in individual accommodations has grown by 18 people and stands at 96 clients. Several of the newest clients have been discharged from area hospitals with most recent referrals coming from our partners at Rush Hospital and Loyola Medine | MacNeal Hospital. This increased number also includes more than 8 families with minor children, and is 30% higher than the population we would normally be servicing in our regular shelter program. We continue to appreciate all the donors, volunteers and businesses who are helping to provide more than 2,000 meals each week.

Our Development Staff is busy applying for both public and private grants to offset unanticipated, and unbudgeted housing expenses. 


(Click image to launch YouTube video.)
 
April 13

Hello Friends,
 
It’s tough to believe that it has been only five weeks since we began responding to the COVID-19  outbreak. So much has happened in that time, and the situation is continually evolving. We want to keep you informed about how we're responding in order to ensure that our clients have the services they need. Here is our latest update video, which was filmed on Friday, April 9.
 
We could not navigate this unchartered territory without the generous support of the community. We are extremely grateful to all who have reached out to offer assistance.
 
Here is how you can help: 
 
Donate to our COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to help cover the unanticipated costs associated with responding to this crisis. If you can donate click here. 
 
Create a House to Home Kit.  Once the state's shelter in place order is lifted, we plan to house as many clients as possible. House to Home Kits provide clients with household items necessary to make an empty space into a home. To learn more click here or contact Erik Johnson at erikj@housingforward.org.
 
Volunteers are vitally important!  We need help with bagged breakfast and lunches and with weekend meal delivery to local hotels. To volunteer, visit our online scheduling calendar or contact Enid Johnson at ejohnson@housingforward.org.
 
Working together, we will get through these challenging and uncertain times.
 
Warm regards!

Lynda Schueler
Executive Director, Housing Forward


April 10

Housing Forward truly appreciates the support of our wider community. Our agency is currently hosting 78 clients experiencing homelessness, who would have been staying in our PADS Emergency Shelter program and are now sheltering in place at motels and apartments in our service area. We are providing over 1500 meals weekly with the help of local businesses, volunteers and donors like you. Additionally, case managers continue to help maintain the stability of 160 individuals and families in supportive housing programs, and efforts continues to prevent others in crisis from becoming homeless.

We are extremely grateful to all who have reached out to help. At this time, there are three ways you can help.

Funding:

We need help covering the unanticipated costs associated with responding to this crisis. If you can donate financially click here for our Emergency Response Fund.  

House to Home Kits:

Once the Shelter in Place order is lifted, we plan to house as many clients as possible rather than reintroducing them to the PADS shelter setting. When we move someone in, we provide them with a House to Home Kit, with household items necessary to make an empty space into a home. Unfortunately, we are out of kits and are asking the community's help. To learn more about contributing to House to Home kits click here or contact Erik Johnson at erikj@housingforward.org.

Volunteers:

We have created a plan for providing meals to shelter clients and some of our home-bound housed clients. This plan covers the month of April and includes several needs for volunteer support. 

We are providing meals to shelter clients staying in individual accommodations. We received a grant to provide delivered weekday dinners and are asking our shelter meal providers to help with breakfast and lunch. We need volunteers to purchase food and create bagged breakfast and lunches. Every day, Monday through Friday, we need 70 breakfasts and 70 lunches to be dropped at our Maywood location (at a predetermined time) so Housing Forward staff can deliver to the clients’ locations.

We also need meal delivery volunteers each weekend.Volunteers pick-up prepared food at one of our food provider businesses and deliver to a local hotel, in either Oak Park, Hillside or Melrose Park. This will typically take place mid-day on Saturday and Sunday and require approximately 90 minutes of your time.

To volunteer visit our online scheduling calendar.

We THANK YOU for your tremendous support!


(Click image to launch YouTube video.)
 

March 31

Hi Housing Forward Friends, 
 
A lot has happened in our world, and for Housing Forward, since we last emailed. I wanted to send an update about what we are doing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last three weeks, we have continued to work to ensure all our clients have the services and support they need. In addition, the health and well-being of our volunteers and staff are at the forefront of our thoughts and actions. 
 
Because this situation is continually evolving, I wanted to share an update through this video, filmed on Friday, March 27.
 
These are challenging and uncertain times for all of us, but there’s also a reason for hope. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of donors and volunteers reaching out to ask how they can help people experiencing homelessness. We are deeply grateful to the many individuals, organizations, and businesses who have assisted us so far.
 
If you are interested in helping, please consider giving online to our COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund or donating items for House to Home Kits in anticipation of the day our newly housed clients arrive home. For more information about House To Home Kits please contact Erik Johnson at erikj@housingforward.org.

P.S.  A longer version of this video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDrWbED3JQU
 

Thank you, and take care!
Lynda Schueler
Executive Director, Housing Forward

 


Monday, March 23

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, 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