An Update from Toby Owen, CEO

September 30, 2020

After recently passing the six month mark from my first update on Presbyterian Night Shelter’s response to COVID-19, I want to briefly share more about daily operations on campus and how the future looks.

We are maintaining the limited operational capacity measures that were put in place earlier this year for the Karl Travis Men’s Center, Lowdon-Schutts Women’s Center, and True Worth Place; other programs on campus are operating normally. Diligently monitoring the capacity in some of our shelters has been instrumental in mitigating any potential outbreak of COVID-19 – we have only had ONE guest and a handful of staff members test positive since March, a testament to the effectiveness of our preventative measures. Leadership is constantly reviewing capacity at the three limited capacity shelters, evaluating when it is best to return to normal operations.

In addition to lower numbers to practice social distancing, other preventative measures put in place earlier this year remain in effect. Masks are a requirement for anyone on campus; social distancing is strongly encouraged; daily health screenings and temperature checks are still happening; and in-person meetings are limited to 10 minutes, but discouraged if possible. The measures we have taken in response to COVID-19 require hard work on the part of so many on campus, trickling down to all areas of the Shelter.

Housing guests during a pandemic has proved to be a challenge in more ways than one. Available housing has always been tough, but it is more difficult now because most affordable housing locations are at capacity and there is very little turnover in those locations. We are also seeing the effects of housing guests from a case management standpoint. The minimal amount of time that is CDC compliant for meetings has put a strain on the housing process, slowing it down considerably. Prior to the pandemic, case managers and guests could be in the same location and meet routinely for 30-45 minutes; the maximum meeting time is now 10 minutes to remain compliant with in-person exposure guidelines, putting strain on the time that case managers are able to meet with guests.

Despite the difficulty that has permeated throughout the homeless community since March, it is abundantly clear that resiliency and hope are two things you cannot easily shake in our staff and guests. Across our campus, spreading to other service providers in the homeless community, is a sense of togetherness and strength that has only grown since March. We are evaluating a phased return of service providers and volunteer activities on campus over the coming months and will communicate any changes as soon as they are made.

Community support from people like you, whether that is a donation of sack lunches, breakfast bags, blankets or sheets; a monetary donation; or advocacy for our mission – all types of support are crucial to continue serving our guests and guiding the journey from homeless to home. Thank you!