Now we protect them: moving most vulnerable COVID-19 to ad hoc shelter space

“It’s better than Camp Pendleton”, Tim stated as he walked into the comfort and isolation of a suburban hotel with his friend Dan and Dan’s best friend.

Homeless shelter operators in Hennepin County have spent the past few days moving our community’s elders into hotel space for isolation. They are the most vulnerable, as we all know, and more vulnerable when sleeping inches from dozens of others who have spent the day living in public, as libraries and drop in centers closed. Dignified women relenting to urinating outside. Where do they wash their hands, you ask?

Not just the military veterans are being protected, those who were willing to protect us long ago, but the elders, the Grandmas and Papas, the people in the twilight of life.

As a 79 year old woman arrived at Elim Church by cab last night at midnight, without socks and wearing slip on shoes, she immediately stated that she couldn’t walk to the nearest bus stop and wondered where she would go when the shelter closed at 7am this morning until tonight. She then asked if she could have a cookie on the table. We will see if we can get her into the Elder Hotel on Monday.

Call your legislator, County Commissioner, Mayor, City Council Member, call at bedtime if you are nervous, when you know you’ll get voicemail, say thank you and leave a question, “How are you addressing the homeless community in this state of emergency?” Ask them how it will benefit the community to have 80 more people, currently sheltering at night at Elim Church and Strong Tower Parish, move into living at the IDS Crystal Court, the aisles of Target or the daytime trains and buses, when winter shelter funding ends April 30?

Need something else to do from your couch? Send a note of encouragement to someone in direct service work: homeless or housing services, healthcare, corrections, fire or police. Send a text, a voicemail, a card or an email. Just the sound of your voice or the words you write really do help as the pressure builds. And close your eyes to see a hotel full of tired, grateful seniors protected from that which we can’t see.

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