Updated: August 6, 2020
Community CARES has been on a very unusual journey during 2020. After coming off a very strong 2019 in terms of funding, community relationship building, mission effectiveness and program changes. COVID-19 struck us by surprise like everyone else in March and from that moment on, we have been playing catch-up.
A few things COVID revealed:
Our current way of housing the homeless needed to change.
Families need a different solution.
We need to build new funding sources to continue our mission.
There have been so amazing things that happened during this time it feels impossible to name them all. However, we especially need to give a huge shout out to The American Legion Post 101 and the Carlisle Borough Stuart Community Center for being our main overnight locations during this time along with the month of July at Carlisle United Methodist Church.
The meals, food, supplies and financial support the community provided sustained us in a way that made it possible to continue our mission.
Now as we try to rebuild much of our program structure we are particularly working to find a permanent site for us to continue our mission without the risk of increased stress on the fabulous and faithful shelter host sites. We would be nowhere without them.
Getting back to “normal” we miss our volunteers, you are our backbone:
We are beginning the process of bringing volunteers back who are comfortable volunteering.
The most pressing need for volunteers is the check in volunteer at shelter. This would be someone who comes in around 8:30pm and helps to check people in and takes temperatures of those staying overnight at shelter. We now have paid staff to stay overnight. This does not mean that we no longer need or want overnight volunteers. We will still use volunteers as an additional layer to our overnight shelter and support to our overnight staff. Ideally, we have two individuals on each night.
We are ready to bring back RC volunteers under the following standards:
Everyone entering the building must wear a mask. While in front office you may remove, your mask if you have the door to front office closed. We are allowing residents to start their own washing machines, so there is really no reason for you to leave the front office unless getting donations from the outside donation table. Everyone coming in must take and log their temperature. Hand washing and hand sanitizing is a must also.
The entire RC is sanitized every 2 hours by the residents. We have a portable hand washing sink outside the RC and also at the Legion.
Anyone working the front desk is required to sanitize the office space at the end of their scheduled shift.
Drivers- We would like to start doing bus trips to Walmart, Smart Meds, SS Office, Driver’s License Center, Weis, Giant, etc. We would like to schedule 2 trips a week to start. If anyone is interested in volunteering for those trips, please let me know. We do not have the days/times set in stone yet. Therefore, we are flexible with that. We would have a starting drop off point and do a loop to all the locations and then loop back around to starting drop off point and pick those up who we dropped off and return to the RC. We will not have a full bus load as we are still trying to keep social distancing guidelines in place. 50% capacity on the bus and masks must be worn at all times.
Resource Center Changes:
-The biggest news to everyone is that we are almost done installing a staff/volunteer bathroom!!! How exciting is that? It will be a locked bathroom for staff and volunteers only and special exceptions. This has been long overdue if you ask me!
-Outdoor Portable toilets (2) and handwashing sinks.
-Overflow Tent to keep RC population down and provide a location for outreach shower people to wait.
Cumberland Street Reach has grown because of COVID and we are busier than ever. We have increased to two staff members and are looking to build outreach teams and events throughout the county.
There is so much more to say, but much remains in process. One huge area of need is our lack of space to house families during this time. Our funding for hotels is practically non-existent so we rely on partnerships to support those families.
We have been able to keep everyone safe and healthy up to this point, and we plan to continue our procedures even after this pandemic is over for the safety of everyone.
Thank you all for your support and care during this time and helping us as we continue to be more than shelter to hundreds in Cumberland County.
Updated: May 4, 2020
To Our Wonderful Community,
Community CARES understands that “sheltering in place” for those experiencing homelessness or near homelessness is a tremendously difficult but necessary situation to navigate. The sudden impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on CARES and those we serve. Our current program model did not provide adequate space to safely shelter our large population of men, women and children. The idea of completely closing our doors was not an option. Literally, lives were depending on us, and we knew we needed to find another way. It is in times like these that we find out what we are truly capable of doing. Therefore, along with the support of our community, we sprang into action.
Community CARES’ incredible staff, along with many generous community partners, have worked hard to find solutions during this unfathomable pandemic. We are thankful that our residents are currently able to shelter in place at the Stuart Community Center and continue to eat healthy meals prepared by a loving community of volunteers and organizations. At the same time, the CARES Resource Center at 50 W. Penn Street is able to be a hygiene and comfort station for those without shelter because we understand the need for clean hygiene practices, especially during this time. Our Cumberland Street Reach (Outreach) team is hard at work assisting those throughout Cumberland County who are facing housing insecurity or loss. We are seeking to increase our Homeless Prevention Fund, to help keep households affected by COVID-19 from losing their homes. In short, we are striving to be the most effective emergency homeless service that we can be for Cumberland County.
We are very aware of the impacts COVID-19 is having on our entire community increased unemployment and pay reductions are leading to housing and food insecurity, and other financial uncertainty. The social impacts and toll the quarantine is having are affecting families in ways they never thought possible and has led to increasing domestic violence and substance abuse, an uptick in calls to crisis regarding anxiety and depression, and general uncertainty of the future. All of this may contribute to the increase in the homeless rates as well.
As the effects of this pandemic unfold over the next weeks and months, Community CARES is committed to continue its work to be a solution of hope. Our three focuses coming out of this pandemic are:
1. Acquire a facility capable of servicing the needs of those we shelter while providing safe social distancing.
2. Increase our Homeless Prevention Fund to support those that fall behind during COVID-19, and provide reassurance for them to rebuild.
3. Continue to build Cumberland Street Reach efforts and partnerships with agencies throughout Cumberland County.
Our community needs to be prepared for this. Community CARES needs to be prepared for this. In short, Community CARES needs your help to prepare for this.
#GivingTuesdayNow is a global campaign which runs from May 5 through May 26. It marks a period when people around the world are given a chance to stand together in unity to help nonprofits in need. If you are able to give, please consider donating to Community CARES. We are in this together and we will get through it together. Thank you for being a COMMUNITY that CARES.
Stay safe and healthy,
Executive Director, Community CARES
March 27, 2020
While the rest of our community is doing what it can to adhere to social distancing practices, including temporary closings, at Community CARES, our doors remain open to one of the most vulnerable populations, those experiencing homelessness. Many of our residents have an increased likelihood of chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension), that put them at higher risk for COVID-19. Since many local agencies and businesses have had to close their doors or severely limit their services for the immediate future, this makes our need even greater, as our residents have limited or no access to many of the supports that they require on a daily basis.