Responses and resources in awareness of COVID19 (novel coronavirus)
To our volunteers, supporters and guests — As a nonprofit working with a vulnerable population and volunteers about whom we care, we’re sharing our current response to COVID19 coronavirus practices. These are based on recommendations from the Dept of Health and Human Services for shelters and facilities working with homeless and housing-insecure populations. These will sound familiar, as they are the same practices most local nonprofits are implementing.
First of all, the Carroll County Public Health and Emergency Preparedness Officer advises that the homeless population is not at higher risk than average citizens for exposure to or becoming carriers of this virus. Thus volunteers and guests are not risking an increased chance of exposure by being at the Way Station, versus other public or lightly-trafficked locations, as long as we use recommended safety protocols.
1) Practice hand washing upon entry and every re-entry into Way Station or after any use of bathrooms. Use soap and water or hand sanitizer, scrubbing for 20 seconds.
2) Observe social distancing: no handshakes or hugs or elbow bumps. Just waving with some distance, preferably 6’ if possible.
3) Clean surfaces after each use of bathroom or shower, using same bleach or Clorox supplies currently used. Use alcohol-based cleaner for furniture such as leather couches (avoid bleach and Clorox for these leather surfaces) at the end of the shift.
4) Sanitize surfaces: counter, sinks, shower, light switches, desk/table, doorknobs and and frequently-handled area of doorframe.
5) Use rubber gloves as needed for cleaning spaces or to launder dirty towels, and then wash rubber gloves with soap and water after use. At least 20 seconds of scrubbing. Note: We have a modest supply of disposable gloves above the washer / drier, but these are for emergency use, so should be conserved if the situation with COVID19 escalates and additional precautions are required.
6) Refer incoming guests to signage on door and at sign-in asking guests who feel sick to make an appointment and not come in during a regular shift. We’ll also ask navigators to screen anyone who is calling for a ride to the Way Station by asking any guest who who feels ill to make a separate appointment. Or stay home or sheltered if that option is available.
7) If guest presents with virus symptoms, isolate them immediately in small homework room during the shift, and request that they wear a mask. Report this situation immediately to Nathan or Gail. We will post ‘next steps’ for this scenario, but it is not considered an imminent concern, simply a safety plan for what-ifs.
8) As of now, the Way Station will remain operational, as long as we can staff shifts, unless local safety officials make a different determination. At this time, we are encouraged to remain open as planned, and mitigate risks using safety practices above.
9) If additional precautions are required, we may limit number of guests on-site at any time, and arrange for visits by appointment.
10) Our safety response remains fluid, we will adapt as needed to maintain volunteer and guest safety. We’re staying in close contact with public health officials during this time.
Please alert us if you prefer to or cannot volunteer while COVID19 remains a public health concern, since we’ll continue to schedule shifts. KNow that you should not feel compelled to volunteer. All of our volunteers should choose what is safest for themselves and their families. While your risk to exposure isn’t greater at the Way Station than other public locations, we are all exercising additional precautions; this crisis presents many challenges.
All of us got involved in the Way Station, because we care for our neighbors. We also care for each other! We honor your choices, regardless of whether it is based on emotional and mental wellbeing during a public health crisis, or because you or someone in your household is ill or immuno-compromised, or for any other reason.
Meanwhile, if you want more information about the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID19), please go to NH Dept of Health and Human Services site, here: https://www.nh.gov/covid19. If you need to report concerns or have questions about this virus, you are advised to call 2-1-1.
The Way Station team appreciates your time and energy. Let us know whether you can stay involved and continue to volunteer on-site. Otherwise, please let us know what your own needs, concerns, ideas and questions may be. We’re a team, and we’re all learning and caring for each other together. Your wellbeing — along with the wellbeing of our guests — is important to us!
Blessings! — Nathan, Gail, Sue and Jeanette for the Way Station Board of Directors