We applaud the dedication, creativity and Herculean effort of the Grays Harbor area’s social services organizations and employees during this COVID-19 crisis. And in the next few weeks, we also want to take a look at the county’s progress in combatting homelessness in our area.
Now more than ever, it is clear that housing is health care.
A recent article from the National Low Income Housing Coalition expounded on that, stating, “Those experiencing homelessness in America are at extreme risk during the pandemic. Many are seniors, have disabilities and/or underlying medical conditions, live in crowded shelters or unsanitary conditions, and lack the ability to quarantine, isolate and recover.
“The lowest-income, severely housing cost-burdened renters – many of whom also are seniors and/or people with disabilities or health conditions – are at high risk of COVID-19 complications as well as the threat of eviction and homelessness due to loss of income.
“The spread of COVID-19 among these populations threatens their health and safety – and that of us all,” the article states.
Today, with that statement in mind, we’d like to especially highlight the Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP), with hopes to catch up to the County Health Department and others for future columns.
With a health crisis and economic crisis at the same time, the staff at CCAP has continued to do what they do so well – serve the community. They’ve found innovative ways to feed senior citizens, dispatch home health care workers, find jobs for clients and much more. They have even found housing for a record number of homeless people.
That’s right, in March CCAP was able to find housing for between 20 and 30 new households, according to CEO Craig Dublanko.
Stable Housing and health are inextricably linked – for the individual and for the community – so their housing efforts are making a difference in our community in many different ways.
“At the time we are paying rent for a total of 800 families a month agency wide,” Dublanko said. “That means those landlords are actually getting paid. So we are helping the landlords as well as the people right now.”
Who would have thought a devastating fire nearly two years ago which forced the agency to move to the former Bank of America building at the intersection of Broadway and Market streets in downtown Aberdeen would end up spurring on a creative way to help clients during this health crisis? But it has.
CCAP is using the former drive-through kiosk at the bank as a “reception” area and has set up 11 virtual intake rooms in the former drive-through area of the bank. These little booths with cameras set up allow the staff to see their clients while keeping social distancing protocols, protecting staff and clients alike.
“This has worked great so we can see people and help some of the most vulnerable in our community,” Dublanko said.
Each person CCAP helps is also another person who they can educate about COVID-19. This is especially true of homeless people, who often don’t have access to other information.
“We are able to tell them how the virus is spread, explain about social distancing and even give them tips about hygiene. You may not think that a homeless person can stay clean, but they can takes steps and do things to make sure they can do what they can,” he said.
CCAP also oversees Home Care Services, which gives the elderly and disabled enough help to allow them to stay in their homes.
“We have 100 caregivers who are working in people’s homes right now,” Dublanko said.
“They are truly like first responders, right on the front lines, making sure some of the most vulnerable are being taken care of,” he said. In addition, the organization is still providing senior lunches – either by pick up or by delivery. While the seniors miss the social interaction of the normal program, each meal picked up or delivered means less exposure for the vulnerable – stretching out time between grocery shopping trips.
Dublanko expects his agency will continue to be especially busy in the months to come as job losses make it more difficult for people to pay their rent, mortgage and power bills. He said he is especially grateful for a recent Grays Harbor Community Foundation grant to CCAP that has made a significant difference in how many people can be helped.
At NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor, as an agency that also helps with housing and financial issues, we know how inextricably secure housing, employment and health are linked. We have been so privileged over the years to work with all the great programs and leaders in our community.
Frankly, we think that our area’s organizations are particularly good at working together for the good of the community. As we said earlier, so many of society’s issues are interconnected and a win in any area is a win for us all to make our community healthier and stronger financially. It’s these leaders’ abilities to work together in day-to-day concerns for our community – such as fighting homelessness together – that has helped make an easier transition to work together during times of crisis.
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Right now, at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor we are practicing social distancing and are therefore working from home. Leave a message on our phone or e-mail us and we will get back to you as soon as we can.