The homeless population in Washington state has begun to fill shelters and create other hardships following the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
Homeless struggles have increased amidst the pandemic, specifically referring to the number of people teetering on the edge of losing their homes. A number of people are reaching out to agencies like Shared Housing Services for help during these times.
“It’s the option folks never thought they would have to choose,” said Joy Stanford, a representative of SHS.
Shared Housing Services is a nonprofit organization that aims to help people before they become part of the homeless population by providing them with safe, affordable housing. COVID-19 has hindered their operations by creating limitations on face-to-face interaction with people, and housing has become less available as housing providers place SHS on hold, according to Stanford and Fisher.
Some of the ways in which SHS has adapted to social distancing changes included opening up their website and mailbox for application entries along with faxing or emailing information and resources out to those in need. A number of their in-person interactions have become Zoom or telephone appointments, according to Fisher.
Since annual fundraising opportunities have been canceled due to COVID-19, SHS has been relying on private donations, grants and virtual online auctions to keep the agency running. Any funds that come from the county or state go directly to the youth program, leaving the adult program left behind.
During unprecedented times, the need for a call to action has increased greatly within both the chronic homelessness population and those who are worried they might become homeless.
“People experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of contracting the virus because they lack access to hygiene, sanitation facilities, and space to socially isolate or quarantine,” according to Seattle University.
Since Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order was written into effect, businesses have laid off or terminated careers due to the decrease in economic activity. The loss of jobs or income greatly influences homeless concerns as people become more likely to fall into the predicament.
While some organizations like the Third Door Coalition (see Homelessness in WA State http://www.puyalluppost.com/the-homelessness-in-wa-state.htm/) take the approach of permanent housing for chronically homeless Washingtonians, others like SHS have a goal of catching people of all ages before they fall.
“We’re still getting clients in constantly, and we know that once this ban [stay-at-home order] is lifted there is going to be a tidal wave of people that are coming toward the homeless resources,” said Juleann Fisher.
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