By Irit Umani
When the COVID19 pandemic started, we just watched it for a while with worried minds, until it became clear that Trinity Center must re-adjust to the new reality. Clearly, we could not keep serving 60 people, six to a table, in our relatively small space. To do so would have meant spreading the virus and risking ourselves, our volunteers and the beloved neighbors we serve. It was heart-breaking because we love the mission, the values and the actual work that is done at Trinity Center. And the people we serve need us and our services.
Being completely closed did not last long. A week later, some of us resumed serving breakfast and handing out mail. Not in the same way though. Breakfast is served outside, as people approach a table and get a to-go breakfast. Distancing and wearing masks are mandated. With breakfast and a cup of coffee, we often give masks, rain ponchos, toiletries, socks and hygiene products. Mail is checked and given from 10am to 1pm weekdays at the front door, with the same safety rules.
Since the time we resumed these limited services, we have been adding to them constantly. We now give seven-day bus passes and clothes (to women) on Mondays. We help offer financial assistance for ID documents and birth certificates on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Coordinated Assessment is done on Fridays, and a meal is offered Sundays at 3:00pm. Sometime in September, we will open applications for individual case management.
Sadly we have lost the sense of community the neighbors and we enjoyed spending time indoors together. A sense of belonging to a community, for which the neighbors love us so, is gone for now. There were weeks after weeks that the only people you saw downtown were the people who are homeless. Everyone else was home, all businesses closed, eerie feeling all around. This made so clear and pronounced the issue of homelessness!
Trinity Center, through its staff, participates in many city-wide action groups that are thinking together and creating programs specific to this crisis time. The city facilitates many programs, like placing COVID-affected or exposed neighbors in hotels, feeding people in different ways, testing folks for the virus and more. Thanks to the generosity of Community Care Clinic, Trinity staff have all been tested five times, four negatives and awaiting a fifth negative result. Thank God.
This fact encourages us to keep serving and shows us that indeed we have found a way to keep services going while keeping everyone safe. We have 13 dedicated volunteers who never stopped serving breakfast with us, and we are deeply grateful to each of them. And recently our long-time summer partners, the National Charity League’s mother-daughter teams, returned to help us provide women’s clothing and put together snack and hygiene packs for the neighbors. We are truly blessed by this dedication.
We try to help more, with things that we normally do not offer. We paid for motel stay for a neighbor who came out of back surgery with no rehabilitation plan and worked with partner agencies to create an indoor plan for him to recuperate. We cover the full price of Greyhound bus tickets, which we previously did together with other organizations/churches. We have helped a few times with utility bills and partial rent assistance, which we plan to increase. And we purchased backpacks and tote bags to hand out as needed.
I could not have imagined that at the end of July we would still be where we are, in fact at an even worse situation with the pandemic than we were a couple of months ago. I often wonder who are we, as a people, that we find ourselves in this situation when it was/is up to us to beat this beast. That said, I am encouraged by the love and dedication to service that we experience here every day and the expressed gratitude of our brothers and sisters.
Special thanks to Christian Rodriguez, James Gorman, Valerie Leal, Diane Holloway and our beautiful volunteers.
Toward a better time, I am, as always, yours in service.
Be blessed and bless,