COVID-19: Heading Home’s Response

COVID-19: Heading Home’s Response

 

Making Moves During COVID

Updated: June 1, 2020
Now months into navigating this unprecedented environment, all-out efforts to address COVID-related issues continue to be top of mind: ensuring our clients health and wellness, building successful solutions that respond to food insecurity, and planning for the further economic hardships that will be realized by our clients in the coming weeks and months. As we continue to adapt and innovate, maintaining an unwavering commitment to the endgame remains the focus: our clients’ successful exit from homelessness.
Several key pillars are enabling us to thrive as an agency during COVID.

  • Leadership thinking is both entrepreneurial and critical – a balance that fosters agility as we prioritize mission-critical efforts.
  • Unyielding case management practices that champion clients on their moves to independence.
  • Systems and processes improvement and investments over the last couple of fiscal years are providing the bandwidth needed to innovate and telework.
  • Innovative private sector and non-profit partnerships create efficiencies and cost savings, allowing us to scale services and meet protocols during COVID.
  • Resilient philanthropy and dedicated donors continue to choose our clients as part of the population that needs a helping hand now, more than ever.

Our Work Continues.We have been helping clients move out of shelter for 45 years and this fiscal year, ending on June 30th, is a hallmark year – with over 120 moves out of shelter, last year’s record will be doubled. Supporting clients on their paths out of homelessness continues, despite COVID. Since March 13th, 30 strong and resilient families have moved from Heading Home shelter into permanent supportive housing – almost 4 moves a week. These moves include many long stayers, including one client who had been with us over 1,400 days. Through relentless pursuit of answers amidst many systems, our case management teams advocate for our clients. Once moved, clients continue to draw on our stabilization services, 12 months of dedicated support aimed at independence.

 

Financial Disparity.Restaurant, retail, and other low-wage workers are particularly at risk to layoffs. An already vulnerable population, those experiencing homelessness are the least prepared to lose a paycheck, let alone weather prolonged unemployment. As this pandemic has progressed, the number of families in our programs who have been furloughed, lost jobs or lost income completely has been unprecedented. As we work to help stabilize some of our most vulnerable families, the importance of our Economic Mobility Services is more prudent than ever. Prioritizing and expediting the relaunch of these services is essential to help meet the unprecedented level of financial insecurity and need arising from this pandemic.

 

2020 Relaunch of Economic Mobility Services at Heading Home – Turning Challenges into Opportunity. Three key pillars of programming we are executing that will be fully operational by July 1, 2020 include:

  • Pillar I – Staff Education, Training and Professional Development – all case managers will become fluent on the basics of financial literacy, including concepts of economic mobility, financial empowerment, budget and planning, debt reduction and credit development, career coaching.
  • Pillar II – Financial Coaching and Consulting Model – A Pathway for Success Every family will be supported by a cross-discipline team to address their individualized economic mobility/financial coaching needs and with more frequent touch points, and specialized assistance.
  • Pillar III – Provide a Critical Asset Building Tool for All Families – Individual Development Accounts (IDA). Specialized savings accounts will be available to clients for pre-determined assets (i.e., down payment on car for work). Heading Home will match funds up to $1500 per year per family.

 

Returning to Offices.The safety of our staff and clients is of the utmost importance, always. In response to the growing need of going into the office that many staff have surfaced, and in accordance with the Governor’s Phase I Guidelines, we will commence returning to all offices in a phased-in approach this week. Returning to our offices will happen in phases following strict health and safety protocols have been put in place.

 

COVID Support. Investment in Heading Home directly translates into supporting our most vulnerable men, women and children on their paths to housing independence – a critical stabilizing force needed to achieve all other goals. COVID-19 Emergency Response Funds will be spent to ensure we will continue to innovate real-time, as we flexibly solve for the safety, health, and wellness of our clients and for the preservation of families.

Week 4: COVID-19 Update

Updated: April 16, 2020
Impact of COVID-19. Having spent four weeks in this unprecedented environment, Heading Home has successfully managed to continue our day-to-day work while pivoting efforts to containing the spread of virus, and keeping our clients safe and well-nourished. We are solving for health, wellness, and family preservation, and working with partners in the private, non-profit and public sectors to do so. Heading Home is part of the segment of essential non-profits where suspending operations is just not possible. Homelessness does not pause during a pandemic.

Leadership Model. Heading Home is working to create viable solutions that have never existed before. We recognize that leadership in moments like these cannot be based on data and known information alone, as these are unprecedented times. We are leveraging experts in fields such as food procurement and distribution, logistics, and childcare, as examples, to develop solutions that address the challenges we are facing in this current environment. 

Funding Support. COVID-19 Emergency Response Funds will be spent to ensure we will continue to innovate real-time, as we flexibly solve for the safety, health, and wellness of our clients and for the preservation of families. More detail follows on our work to date, anticipated near term next steps, and the associated fiscal implications. 

  • Ensuring Health. Phase I of our response began with health concerns top of mind. Thorough cleaning and regular sanitization of our close-proximity shelters and housing programs, as well as instituting safe distancing best practices across the agency, and regular reminders about the importance of hand washing were instituted immediately. We began preparing contingency plans that looked out to the ever-evolving nature of this pandemic, by anticipating the needs of clients and staff who may become ill. We have 51 essential employees in the field daily including full-time staff at 11 properties across Greater Boston (Dorchester, Roxbury, Cambridge and Medford), whose work must not be interrupted.  Today we are working with state and local agencies to plan for a health surge in family shelters, developing de-population strategies.  
    • Delivery of critical health & safety supplies to help keep families, children and chronically homeless adults healthy and those housing units habitable, to not put any clients into an unstable living situation.
    • Professional cleaning services to sanitize congregate shelters where 7-8 families live, or 14 chronically homeless adults share the same co-living spaces.
  • Ensuring Wellness. Contrary to what many might believe, our best-in-class approach to working with a population like ours in times like these, is to increase communication rather than distance ourselves. Already isolated and without substantial support systems, our clients need to hear from us more than ever, and they have through an implementation of intense, remote case management. Comprehensive coverage of clients’ mental, physical and emotional health, as well as providing the necessary basic needs has been instituted to provide to ensure we are being responsive to the evolving needs of every child, family and adult in our programs.
    • Increased staff support to two touchpoints with every Heading Home client weekly to ensure they feel safe, that they have the proper resources, support and that we understand how their health may be impacted or if they are showing signs of being infected.
  • Addressing Food and Basic Necessities Insecurity. Phase II arrived in early April with an escalation in disaster relief work. Food, medication, and supply insecurity prompted us to build strategy to be sure our clients’ basic needs are met. Heading Home has accomplished this disaster relief work through preparedness and distribution of food and supplies. Operationalizing food drops that are both responsive and proactive. In partnership with Greater Boston Food Bank, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, Catholic Charities, and Food for Free, among others, we have been able to fulfill all emergency food requests including daily food drops to our clients. We are solving food insecurity for:  
    • All 250 chronically homeless adults that we support through our Cambridge Shelter, Rindge House, Duley House, McKay House, Lopez House and scattered site units in Cambridge
    • All individuals and families who have Heading Home housing or services are fed and have access to necessary medication and supplies. 200 Family Emergency Shelter units so that no family or any of our 525 Heading Home children supported in our programs currently goes hungry or is food insecure. We also support an additional 40 vulnerable families through transitional, and stabilization services. 
    • Through a vibrant partnership with Tatte Bakery, and operationalized via Boston Resiliency Fund support, we will be delivering shelf stable, perishable and pre-made meals to all Heading Home Boston clients to eliminate food insecurity for the month of April 20-May 20, 2020.  
  • Building Agency Capacity. We are continuing to expand our capacity to handle COVID both in terms of numbers of units we manage as well as the staff needed. Temporary help has been deployed to ensure that no facility where staff may be impacted or sick with the virus cannot be properly staffed 24 hours/7 days per week. This is critically important to maintain the health and wellbeing of our homeless clients who are incredibly vulnerable. Full time hiring continues as we scale our operations to support during COVID. Presently we are solving for two areas that require capacity in ways we never before had imagined:
    • Family Preservation. If a parent becomes ill who resides in our shelters and there is not an immediate alternate caretaker for the child(ren), Heading Home will create on-site childcare, in partnership with childcare entities, to support children safely and ensure family preservation. 
    • High Risk Family Support. To reduce risk of the population of families who are most vulnerable from a health perspective, Heading Home is working with the state to de-populate current living arrangements by expanding our portfolio of available apartments quickly. Additionally, we are taking a leadership role in convening all state and city authorities to expedite movement of families through the system to achieve permanent supportive housing during a period when such efforts have slowed or been stalled. In conjunction with agencies such as Metro Housing and the Boston Housing Authority, Heading Home is taking preparedness measures to move families as efficiently and effectively as possible into housing.

Fiscal Implications. As we look ahead to financial estimates for the impact of COVID, we are sourcing public, private and in-kind support as well as volunteers to help offset costs. The unknowns that could impact our expenses during this unprecedented environment include length of virus time, the potential for staff outages, and whether a second surge might occur.

Cost Projections. On the cost projection side, we are estimating $1.7m in COVID-related expenses through the end of June 2020. The two largest line items for these estimates are food procurement and distribution ($983k) as well as staff and overtime ($446k).

Potential for Lost Private Fundraising Revenue. Like so many of our fellow non-profits, Heading Home’s annual gala has been canceled. And while universal deduction of charitable giving has returned and corporate tax benefits have increased for charitable giving, the near-term impact of this economic downturn on charitable giving is hard to predict. We are currently $660,000 away from reaching our pre-COVID private fundraising goal of $3,150,000, which is not included in the above estimates.

Federal and State Support. We have submitted our cost projections to the state for their consideration and await response. Our Payroll Protection Plan application has been submitted, followed by a request for an Economic Recovery Loan, both of which are available to non-profits through the Federal CARES package. Hundreds of thousands of applications are expected across the country, so certitude of funding is not clear. We expect to apply for Federal Emergency Solutions Grant funding for our shelters as soon as the application process opens.

Private Funding Support. With a goal of raising $1,000,000 in COVID relief funds to support both planned and unexpected expenses, we continue to reach out to foundations and donors for support. To date, we have received $670,000 in COVID funding relief.

Deferring Mortgage Payments and Debt Consolidation. Conversations with our lenders are in motion on both fronts.

COVID Support Impact. The impact of critical funding being raised would directly touch and impact all Heading Home clients being supported in our shelter and housing programs today and over the coming months. Your investment will directly impact:

  • The nearly 250 families who are living in shelter and housing with us:
    • 148 of those families have at least one child under the age of 5 today.
  • 525 children under the age of 18 living in our shelters and housing.
  • 230+ chronically homeless adults who live in permanent supportive housing with us; 100% of them are living with a chronic disability (mental, emotional or physical) that impairs their ability to live without support and often, these clients are suffering from both concurrently.
  • 21 homeless adults who are living in our Cambridge Shelter, where for their safety and health, we have allowed them to stay 24 hours a day indefinitely until we are through this pandemic. We have shifted our meal availability accordingly and are providing all 21 people three meals per day.

These funds would be implemented instantly as we are incurring daily costs outside of our normal operating budget to keep every child and client protected, healthy and fed. 

Week 3: COVID-19 Update

Updated: April 2, 2020
Impact of COVID-19. Now closing in on 3 weeks in this unprecedented environment, Heading Home has moved into disaster relief work, increasing all efforts that contribute to containing the spread of virus and keeping our clients safe and well-nourished.

First, the scope of work might be helpful.  We are presently supporting:

  • Emergency Shelter and Stabilization for Families. 250 families and their 525 children in emergency shelter, that includes both congregate settings (7 houses for multiple families) and many scattered site apartments throughout Boston.
  • Chronically Homeless Individuals. 230+ chronically homeless adults that we support through our Cambridge Shelter, Rindge House, Duley House, McKay House, Lopez House and scattered site units in Cambridge.
  • Transitional Housing for Families. 20 families and their 38 children in transitional housing scattered site apartments in Boston.

Phase I of our response began with health concerns top of mind. Thorough cleaning and regular sanitization of our close-proximity shelters and housing programs, as well as instituting safe distancing best practices across the agency and regular reminders about the importance of hand washing were instituted immediately. We began preparing contingency plans that looked out to the ever-evolving nature of this pandemic, by anticipating the needs of clients and staff who may become ill. We have 11 properties across Greater Boston (Dorchester, Roxbury, Cambridge and Medford) that require staffing 24 hours per day/7days a week to protect and support our clients.

Contrary to what many might believe, our best-in-class approach to working with a population like ours in times like these, is to increase communication rather than distance ourselves.  Already isolated and without substantial support systems, our clients need to hear from us more than ever, and they have through an implementation of intense, remote case management.  Comprehensive coverage of clients’ mental, physical and emotional health, as well as providing the necessary basic needs has been instituted to provide to ensure we are being responsive to the evolving needs of every child, family and adult in our programs.

Phase II has arrived, and within several days, Heading Home has moved into disaster relief.  Food, medication and supply insecurity has prompted us to shift mission to be sure our clients’ basic needs are met. Heading Home has accomplished this disaster relief work through preparedness and distribution of food and supplies.

Heading Home is part of the segment of essential non-profits where suspending operations is just not possible. Homelessness does not pause during a pandemic.

Fiscal Implications.As we look ahead to financial estimates for the impact of COVID, we are sourcing public, private and in-kind support as well as volunteers to help offset costs. 

COVID-19 Emergency Response Funds will be spent to ensure:

  • Operationalizing food drops to:
    • All individuals and families who have Heading Home housing or services are fed and have access to necessary medication and supplies. 200 Family Emergency Shelter units so that no family or any of our 525 Heading Home children supported in our programs currently goes hungry or is food insecure. We also support an additional 40 vulnerable families through transitional, permanent supportive housing and stabilization services.
    • All our 250 chronically homeless adults that we support through our Cambridge Shelter, Rindge House, Duley House, McKay House, Lopez House and scattered site units in Cambridge.
  • Delivery of critical health and safety supplies to help keep families, children and chronically homeless adults healthy and those housing units habitable, to not put any clients into an unstable living situation.
  • Professional cleaning services to sanitize congregate shelters where 7-8 families live, or 14 chronically homeless adults share the same co-living spaces.
  • Increased staff support in order to:
    • Increase touch points with every Heading Home client to ensure they feel safe, that they have the proper resources, support and that we understand how their health may be impacted or if they are showing signs of being infected.
    • Temporary help may be required to ensure that no facility where staff may be impacted or sick with the virus cannot be properly staffed 24 hours/7 days per week. This is critically important to maintain the health and wellbeing of our homeless clients who are incredibly vulnerable.

COVID Support Impact. The impact of critical funding being raised would directly touch and impact all Heading Home clients being supported in our shelter and housing programs today and over the coming months. Your investment will directly impact:

  • The nearly 250 families who are living in shelter and housing with us:
  • 148 of those families have at least one child under the age of 5 today.
  • 525 children under the age of 18 living in our shelters and housing.
  • 230+ chronically homeless adults who live in permanent supportive housing with us; 100% of them are living with a disability (mental, emotional or physical), a chronic health condition that impairs their ability to live without support and often, these clients are suffering from both concurrently.
  • 21 homeless adults who are living in our Cambridge Shelter, where for their safety and health, we have allowed them to stay 24 hours a day indefinitely until we are through this pandemic. We have shifted our meal availability accordingly and are providing all 21 people three meals per day.

These funds would be implemented instantly as we are incurring daily costs outside of our normal operating budget to keep every child and client protected, healthy and fed.

Our Appreciation.
We are beyond appreciative and humbled to have the opportunity to be considered for your support during this unprecedented time. We respectfully request your consideration of an investment of whatever capacity may be possible as we ensure the safety, health and well-being of all our clients who are in shelter and housed with us. Thank you!

Heading Home’s COVID-19 Response from CEO, Danielle Ferrier

Updated: March 13, 2020
In response to COVID-19, Heading Home is increasing all efforts that contribute to containing the spread of virus and keeping our clients safe. This means our close-proximity shelters and housing programs are thoroughly sanitized regularly. It means preparing contingency plans that look out to the second and third stages of this pandemic, anticipating the needs of clients who may become ill.  Staff will shift from in-person meetings to operate out of our offices, limiting home visits to when absolutely necessary.

Contrary to what many might believe, our best-in-class approach to working with a population like ours in times like these, is to increase communication rather than distance ourselves.  Already isolated and without substantial support systems, our clients need to hear from us more than ever, and they will.  Comprehensive coverage of clients’ mental, physical and emotional health, as well as providing the necessary basic needs has been instituted to include two touch points weekly.

Heading Home is part of the segment of non-profits where suspending operations is just not possible. Homelessness does not pause during a pandemic. In fact, upwards of $250,000 in unplanned purchases will be spent by Heading Home on supplies and basic needs in stage one of our COOP plan – our commitment to remain functional always.  Should schools close and meal access become suspended, we will incur $647,000 in food related expenses to ensure that no one in our care goes hungry. We take the safety of our clients seriously.  As a housing provider and public agency that supports our city’s families and individuals experiencing homelessness, we are a critical part of the system that has been in constant communication with state and city officials to help contain the potential spread of disease.

In these moments, we all can feel anxious and fearful of the unknown.  We need your support more than ever, and we ask that you continue, or consider increasing, your generosity.  Please join us as we protect and care for those who need it most.