Michelle’s Corner 8.11.20
The idea that change is frightening isn’t a new one. Change means facing the unknown, change can mean not having an immediate answer to a question, and change doesn’t always lead to something better…at least right away.
We’ve all certainly experienced change in our lives: going to school for the first time, or getting married and starting a family, or beginning a job in a new town. This kind of change is stressful but exciting with new possibilities for adventure. There’s also terrible change such as losing a job, a relationship, or a loved one.
But, now we have this pandemic. Talk about change! Whatever your personal views and beliefs are; COVID-19 has changed all of our lives. How we work (and too many have lost jobs), how we shop (curbside or follow the arrows in the aisles), how we greet each other (or DON’T greet each other), and how we all interact (ZOOM anyone?)
Our lives have become more…difficult…one way or another.
One thing we must keep in mind, is that each of us is experiencing these changes differently. Something easy for me, may be life shattering to you. For example, I have a teenager who took to online learning like a fish to water. His personality fits the video conferencing world perfectly. So many other kids aren’t having such a great time interacting with people through a screen: they miss their friends and extracurricular activities.
Let’s take this a step further and consider how the changes wrought by the pandemic affect the unhoused in our community. The most important thing to remember is that the unhoused are not all the same. They are individuals with unique personalities, needs, skills and experiences that are reacting to the restrictions and challenges of COVID-19 in different ways. It is a mistake to ever suggest that, “All unhoused people are…” whatever it is you think they all are!
That said, some of the biggest challenges are obvious:
- Access to technology such as cell phones or laptops and then access to the internet and a place to recharge the technology is vital to get services, like telehealth, or to stay connected to friends and family.
- Access to places providing hand washing, restrooms, drinking water, and showering.
- Access to walk-in services is all but impossible, most agencies have had to put in new protocol around access to buildings.
- Access to emergency shelter. Due to social distancing, most shelters have had to space out cots; cutting the number of available beds nearly in half. This is a growing concern as we look forward to the cold and damp months.
- Access to places to escape the sun and heat, cooling centers and other public entities (such as the library) are closed.
The pandemic has amplified the ways we as a community address the challenges of the unhoused and the need to meet people where they are. The pandemic has shown that if one part of the population is at risk, we are all at risk. We cannot afford to ignore our most vulnerable community members. County, city, agency, business, house of religion and community members, let’s come together and make our own change.
Change for the better.