04 Jun Shelter Diary
The Sophia Way shelter staff share the positives and challenges of sheltering through the pandemic.
Change is hard for everyone.
The first few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic were challenging for both clients and staff. Women already stressed because of homelessness were now being told to wash their hands, use sanitizers that smell of alcohol, wear a mask, and stay six feet apart – coping with so many new things.
The impact of space.
The bigger space at the Red Lion Hotel makes a huge difference. Having space to distance, and a place to walk and sit outside has been amazing. The women don’t necessarily have to be all in one room. They have much-needed space, which helps keep moods lifted.
The women also look healthier – some of them even have a glow! It’s incredible to think about how much rest and relaxation helps you feel better. One woman who has a bad back and uses a walker has less pain as she has had more time to lie down and rest.
The women staying at the Emergency Shelter appreciate they can sleep longer. They no longer have to get up early, pack up, and then take their belongings wherever they go. Women who are traumatized who may have kept others awake can now sleep further away, which helps everyone have a more restful night.
Some women have gotten jobs at grocery stores, coffee shops, and similar businesses because of the need for essential workers.
With all the positives, there have also been some struggles.
Many women are dealing with depression because there is no housing available right now. Applying for an apartment and proving that you are not going to lose your job is challenging. Getting documentation is taking longer. These are all stress points. Going forward, there will probably be even more barriers for women to get into housing.
What we also hear is many women feel isolated and “hemmed-in.” They miss the community places they would frequent, the park, coffee shops, other nonprofits, and the library where they were able to meet people and access resources.
Community resources and services that we used to offer at the day center – such as counseling services from Ikron and medical or legal services – have also been placed on pause. We ask women to utilize online services, but many don’t want to do that – and we also have a limited number of computers.
We now have a better understanding of the women in Sophia’s Place (Extended Stay Shelter).
Women who were staying in cubicles at Sophia’s Place, now have private rooms with a TV, mini-fridge, microwave, a bed (sometimes two), and a private bathroom. Some were thrilled to be in their room to enjoy privacy and do things at their own pace. However, for some women who have not experienced this level of privacy in many years, they immediately felt lonely and isolated. Some are so used to living in a community, find it can be frightening to be alone. Staff takes the time to have conversations with each woman, to understand what we can do to make her feel safe and connected.
Being at the Red Lion Hotel is amazing. There is space, inside and out, there is privacy for women, and the community of women is resilient. We can’t thank donors enough for all they provide for the women —food, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, clothing and more. We are truly grateful for each one of you who show that you stand with the women on their journey.
Women at our shelter express their feelings.
“You have given me shelter in a very dangerous storm. Thank you for making me feel safe and cared for during this crazy time.”
“The Sophia Way makes life sweet. I continue to grow and develop as I continue on my journey. Thank you for everything you give and do. I am grateful beyond measure.”
“I am eternally grateful for these optimal health precautions and a chance at rest and relaxation. It has been extremely positive and stabilizing, giving me deep healing opportunities for my mind, body, and soul.”
“I want to say a big ‘Thank you!’ to The Sophia Way and their donors for their kindness and support. Having my own room at the Red Lion has given me space and privacy to focus and concentrate on finding housing and stability!”
“The staff are helpful and caring. To have good food and a shower every day is the best!”
“It’s a scary time to be living now, but I am grateful to be here. The Sophia Way community takes care of each other. The food from different restaurants is really good.”