Day-to-day operations have changed some at Hope for Home, Pomona’s year-round homeless services center, but administrators say they’re weathering the current public health crisis and still finding a way to provide shelter for those in need.
The center, which opened its doors in December 2018, is taking extra measures to ensure the safety of its 190 clients and 40-plus employees during the novel coronavirus outbreak that public health officials say has sickened about 150 people in Pomona in recent weeks.
Administrators have installed hand-sanitizer stations, clients are required to wear face coverings, and the shelter has been reconfigured to place all beds 6 feet apart.
In addition, for the past month, the center has allowed clients to leave in groups of two to four for a maximum of two hours a day, according to Reggie Clark, program manager for Volunteers of America, the organization that runs the center. Clients are allowed to leave the center between 2-4 p.m. daily for groceries and other errands. The rules allow the center to better monitor where individuals have been, Clark said.
He said all of these measures have been put into place with one thing in mind — the clients. Many of them have anxiety about the coronavirus but he and fellow staff members try to be positive.
“We know as much as they do so we’re just trying to keep things real with them and let them know where we are in all of this,” Clark said. “We’re just glad they’re not being forgotten about.”
To ensure healthy work and living conditions, clients must have their temperatures taken three times a day and workers twice a day. If a client exhibits symptoms, they are sent to Pomona Valley Health Center to be screened for testing. If tests are required, clients are referred to East Valley Community Health Center.
“We aren’t taking any risks here and this all for the better for everyone working and temporarily living here,” said Donyielle Holley, homeless programs supervisor for the city of Pomona and a liaison for Hope for Home between and Volunteers for America. “It’s not easy but we’re getting through it.”
While there have been a few clients who have shown symptoms, all of them tested negative for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Holley said.
“So far, so good in terms of positive cases,” she added. “But we know right now is not the time to relax on our protocols.”
If a client were to test positive for the disease, they would be referred to the nearby Sheraton Fairplex hotel, which is currently serving as a temporary quarantine facility under contract with Los Angeles County. Those being admitted to the hotel include first responders, medical personnel and members of the homeless community. Holley said some homeless patients who have been discharged from the hotel have stayed temporarily at Home for Hope while they seek housing.
The number of clients at the center, which has 205 capacity, has fluctuated over the past month with some choosing to go stay with families due to health concerns. Only those who have been medically screened for the coronavirus can stay at the shelter.
Meanwhile, the center is managing a waiting list for those looking to join its crisis housing program, which is an individual’s entry point to interim housing. A person can stay in crisis housing for up to 90 days but extensions can also be approved.
Clark said the coronavirus hasn’t stopped the center from helping those with housing needs find a place to stay. With the help of Project Roomkey, a state program that is looking to fill 10,000 motel and hotel rooms countywide to shelter vulnerable communities, the center has helped 16 people find a place to stay.
According to public health officials, Los Angeles County has identified 100 cases of COVID-19 among its estimated homeless population of 60,000.
“Everyone is a bit concerned about everything but we try to find some positives in everything,” Holley said. “Our staff has known a lot of our clients for a long time, so we feel like we’re in this fight together.”