I am working from home as I write this article, typing away on my laptop in my office. One of my sons is chatting away with his 5th grade “lunch crew” buddies via Zoom, while my other son, a freshman, finishes up baking some sugar cookies. He chose sugar cookies because that’s what could be made with the ingredients available to him right now.

Earlier I drafted a grant proposal, spoke with some shelter meal donors by phone and helped my 5th grader with some math. Soon I’ll take a break to walk the dog and eat a late lunch, which will consist of whatever I have in the kitchen. I guess this is our new normal for the time being.

COVID-19 has changed the way we all work and live. In Tedford Housing’s case, we’ve had to expand our hours rather than decrease our operations. With safe community spaces like The Gathering Place and Curtis Memorial Library closed during the day, it’s essential for our adult shelter to be open 24 hours / day. Because we normally close between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. during the week, this change means a lot of new logistics and expenses that weren’t in our plans. At the very least, it means we need staffing 24 hours at our adult shelter, and we need to feed our shelters guests three meals per day.

In an effort to practice social distancing and to comply with Gov. Janet Mills’ executive order to shelter safely at home, we are spreading staff out as much as possible. Some, like me, are working from home if and when we can. Our supportive housing and outreach case managers are checking in with people via phone, text and email. Tedford Housing’s buildings are closed to the public. Only staff and guests are allowed into our shelters.

Yesterday was my morning to be in the admin office and to deliver lunch to shelter guests. I’ll be back tomorrow in the afternoon. We’ve spread out our staff to cover our “headquarters” so people can still drop off needed donations outside our door on Middle Street during business hours. (Though at this point we are only accepting essential donations that we need right now such as cleaning supplies and paper products.)

Our adult shelter staff are the ones on the frontlines day in and day out. Not only is our shelter open 24 hours, but we also have some guests staying in local hotel rooms so that we can properly practice social distancing. The distance means that food needs to be delivered to two places every day.

Basic needs like food and shelter are absolutely essential right now. Sheltering safely at home only works if you have a home (and one that’s safe). When neighbors need help in times like this, it truly takes a community to provide the basics.

We are thankful to so many donors, volunteers and partners who are helping us to keep operating during this time. Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program is providing lunches Monday – Saturday, while a neighbor is delivering lunch on Sunday. Our regular Meal-A-Month volunteers continue to prepare and deliver dinner every night, leaving the food outside the shelter and ringing the bell to alert staff. The Brunswick School Department has been providing breakfast and lunches during the week for school-aged children and working on technology access for those who may have difficulty with remote learning. A local donor provided handmade masks

for Tedford Housing staff who are working at the shelter or delivering meals. Pathway Vineyard Church is continuing its Tuesday night community meal on a take-out basis and bringing some over to the shelter at the end of the night. The Bath YMCA, right down the road from one of our family supportive housing units, is providing free meals for kids. Mid Coast Hospital provided thermometers for guests to track their temperature each day. Supporters have stopped by to drop off cleaning supplies, toilet paper and other essentials outside our admin office door. We appreciate the well wishes through the glass storm door! And we are thankful for the monetary donations coming in from neighbors, local organizations, funders and other supporters to help us with the many unexpected expenses we are incurring during this pandemic.

These are difficult and challenging times for many of us, regardless of socioeconomic background. If this pandemic teaches us anything, it’s that it truly takes a community effort to get through difficult times.

By Jennifer Iacovelli is Tedford Housing’s director of development. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community. 

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