It’s now been over a year since COVID-19 hit and changed the way that we all go about our daily lives. It has been a year of stress and screen fatigue, and – for our participants living outside – a year without the indoor respite offered by places where they used to seek shelter during the day. Though it’s been a tough year for so many, we’ve managed to keep our community safe by adapting, implementing new protocols, and creating new resource hubs. Thanks to the adherence to strict universal precautions, mask-wearing and, disinfecting, our community has successfully managed to keep COVID-19 cases low.
At Transition Projects, we seek to care for the caretakers to ensure that our community – our team and participants – are safe and supported. Over the last year, we redoubled our investment in those serving on the frontlines, by providing staff with a childcare stipend to support individuals with children under 13; increasing wages for workers in our shelter and outreach programs; distributing needed supplies, including toilet paper, PPE and enrichment materials for children; and, making emergency funds available for our team. We’re proud to support our team of over 350 who make a difference for so many each day.
We’re grateful that we’ve had such a low incidence of COVID-19 in our shelters. This result was possible, in no small part, because of the resilience and strength of our program participants. It has been an especially difficult year for those we serve. But, despite the many hardships brought on by the pandemic, they've remained invested in protecting themselves and each other by adhering to universal precautions, while continuing to make progress towards housing, wellness, and personal goals.
Working through the COVID-19 pandemic has been interesting, to say the least. Over the last year, I’ve served in our shelters and on our COVID-19 Taskforce to keep our community safe. Though life outside of work has been challenging – as a mother of two in recovery – I am thankful for everything Transition Projects has done to keep our team safe.
- Salma Azizza, Banfield Shelter Motel Supervisor
Our Outreach Team does critical work to bridge the gap between those living unhoused and the resources available in our community. This team has pivoted over the last year to distribute PPE, while continuing to offer connections to shelter resources and needed information for those without a home to retreat to. Since the pandemic started, the Outreach Team has distributed 10,000 masks, as well as critical hygiene supplies, all while routing individuals to new shelters created as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also stepped up to support our community when it was most needed - from providing connections to shelter during last summer's smoke emergency to providing information about emergency shelter options during February's ice storm.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we opened the Banfield Shelter Motel to create space for 60+ medically vulnerable individuals to shelter in a non-congregate setting. Opened in a former motel, this shelter offers on-site medical care, case management, and connections to supportive services. This shelter has been in operation since last July and has allowed individuals, couples, and their pets to safely distance themselves.
Planning for the winter season, during the pandemic, presented a number of challenges. Each year, we create additional shelter options to keep our neighbors experiencing homelessness safe during our harshest season. We were able to create spaces that complied with COVID-19 guidance to offer refuge off the street. Our Downtown Winter Shelter opened in the vacant Greyhound Bus Station in November and offered physically distanced sleeping pods and connections to services. Since opening, this site has sheltered more than 200 individuals and couples – the majority of whom have experienced chronic homelessness. Last week, we transitioned this site over to Do Good Multnomah for continued operations through the summer. We’re glad to see additional shelter beds being made available at this site for those that need support most.
In February, we also opened a temporary 24/7 Severe Weather Shelter at the Oregon Convention Center for 175 individuals with no place to turn to during the ice storm. Physically distanced sleeping spaces and rapid COVID-19 testing were provided to keep individuals safe and warm. Truly a collaborative effort, this shelter was only made possible through the support of the city, county, and scores of volunteers who braved the cold to staff the shelter, ferry supplies, even help our team members get to work!
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Volunteers have played a crucial role in our success over the last year. In 2020, over 61,000 service hours were completed by our outstanding volunteers – in spite of the COVID pandemic – with over 111,000 meals served throughout our shelters. Whether it’s cleaning up a garden bed for participants to plant in, cooking a delicious meal, or hosting a donation drive, our volunteers truly made an impact.
The onset of the pandemic last year brought the social and spiritual hub of our Sikh community at the Sikh Center of Oregon to an abrupt halt. The opportunity to serve meals to the residents of the Transition Projects shelters became a timely outlet for some inspired volunteers to continue their core Sikh practice of Seva - selfless service.
– Gurpreet Singh, Volunteer Meal Provider
While we hope that COVID-19 will be a concern of the past soon, there is so much work to do to keep our community safe here and now. We continue to partner with the county, city, and sister agencies to offer COVID-19 vaccines to those we serve through pop-up vaccination clinics and by acting as a hub for public health information. Though it is disheartening that Multnomah County is entering the “extreme risk category” once again, we are confident that by continuing to follow safety procedures and adapting as situations demand, we'll continue safely fulfilling our mission to help individuals transition from homelessness to housing. Throughout this crisis, Portland residents have demonstrated tenacity, determination, and the willingness to take care of their neighbors. We are so grateful for the staff, volunteers, participants, and partners who have made this work possible, and look forward to once again gathering in person to celebrate the resilience of our community.
The journey to housing for over 1,000 of our neighbors each year starts at our Resource Center.