Resources for UNITY’s Agencies During the Pandemic

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit our community quickly. On Monday the first known case was reported in our community, and by this morning the number of cases in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish had already reached 26; the numbers are expected to continue to climb rapidly next week. While COVID-19 is not considered dangerous to people under 60 who are in good health (in fact, many people may be carriers of the virus who will never show any symptoms at all), it can result in very serious illness for people who are at higher risk because they are over 60 or have chronic health conditions. It is much more easily transmittable than the flu. Our client population is particularly vulnerable, both because they often have chronic health conditions and because they often are living in conditions in which this virus would be easily transmitted. This includes crowded living conditions that lack access to handwashing facilities or basic hygiene to protect themselves from transmission.

HUD COVID Waivers for the Continuum of Care Program

HUD COVID Waivers for the Continuum of Care Program HUD is allowing greater flexibility to communities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and better assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness. UNITY has requested approval to use the CoC waivers with the CoC and HOPWA programs for which UNITY is the grantee. Below is a summary of the waivers and recommended documentation for CoC programs. If you have any questions, please contact vcoffin@unitygno.org or your contract manager. Program Area Usual Requirement Waiver Requirements Recommended Documentation Fair Market Rent for Leasing Rent payments for individual units with leasing dollars may not exceed Fair Market Rent (FMR). FMR restriction is waived from March 31, 2020 until September 31, 2020. The rental amount must still meet rent reasonableness standards. Revise the rent payment standard to reflect FMR is waived for this time period. Refer to the HUD COVID-19 waiver notice in the leasing file. Ensure unit meets rent reasonableness standards. Disability Documentation for PSH Documentation of disability must be documented at entry or with intake worker’s observation with additional confirming evidence (by a medical professional) within 45 days. If disability documentation is documented by intake worker observation only, the documentation by a certified professional must be obtained no later than September 31, 2020. Document in the intake paperwork the evidence available regarding client disabling condition including case worker observation, medical records, documentation for prior years. Cite the HUD COVID-19 waiver. Indicate the plan to obtain documentation within 6 months. Update progress on a monthly basis for any clients accepted under this waiver. Eligible Housing Search and Counseling Service Costs Eligible activities do not include client debt. CoC Program funds may be used for up to 6 months of client utility arrears and up to 6 months of rent arrears If those arrears make it difficult to obtain housing. Waiver is in effect until March 31, 2021. Program must obtain a budget revision to move funds into this line item. Program should document how the client cannot obtain housing without payment of arrears. Rapid Rehousing Monthly Case Management Program participants are required to meet with a case manager not less than once per month. Since some clients do not have a phone or internet, the monthly requirement is waived until May 31, 2020. Document that the client does not have access to phone or internet. Document attempts to meet with client using social distancing. Continue to assist the client to obtain phone or internet access and document such assistance in case …
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COVID-19 Updates

March 31 Update: Resources:  Crescent Care is conducting testing for COVID-19 for people who have a fever and a cough or sore throat. Testing is available at 1631 Elysian Fields location from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.  Crescent Care also has a daily podcast and other information on their website: www.crescentcare.org Limited Operations: Ozanam Inn is not providing overnight shelter. The Salvation Army is not taking new clients but is allowing clients to stay during the day. Travelers Aid office is providing services to clients via telephone. The New Orleans Shelter and Engagement Center is not taking new overnight guests. Hotel Hope is providing shelter at an area hotel. Grace at the Greenlight is providing breakfast. Normal Operations: The New Orleans Mission, New Orleans Women’s and Children’s Shelter, New Orleans Family Justice Center.  All  RRH and PSH programs continue to house new clients and provide services although with limited personal contact. Assessments for the state PSH program can be conducted over the phone. Alternative Operations: NAMI is providing services to the homeless at Bayou Segnette who have been tested for COVID-19. Meals: Grace at Greenlight: Hot breakfast 8:00 a.m., 7 days/week at 1528 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. Rebuild Center: The remaining meal providers will serve meals from the back deck of the Rebuild Center instead of at their regular location. Everyone will line up in the parking lot with cones separating them from each other to facilitate 6 feet of social distancing. Lantern Light sill serve a bag lunch at 1 p.m. St. Jude will serve a hot dinner at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 400 N. Rampart Street.   March 16, 2020: LHC has requested supplies for the CoC including personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, gloves, sanitizer (etc.) for homeless programs. The request also included handwashing stations and portolets for New Orleans and Jefferson Parish to assist unsheltered homeless people.  The state has designated 15 units at Bayou Segnette for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and do not have a place to self-isolate, including the homeless. Service Provider Update: Out of 100 clients had their temperature taken at Harry Tompson Center and none exhibited a high temperature. Start reports no residents of the Low Barrier Shelter had a high temperature.
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Guidance from CDC, HUD and Federal Partners

Interim Guidance for Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 among People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness Interim Guidance for Homeless Service Providers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 HUD SNAPS COVID-19 Infectious Disease Prevention & Response National Healthcare for the Homeless COVID-19 Resources United States Interagency Council on the Homeless Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources Click to Download
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City of New Orleans Updates

Link to Live Updates The City of New Orleans website maintains a list of resources available to residents during the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes information about …
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UNITY wants to provide homeless service providers in the Homeless Continuum of Care (CoC) guidance about how to continue to provide services during the pandemic while also helping to reduce spread of infection among your staff and clients.

1 Please do your very best to maintain services to your clients as per your contracts. This is a very stressful period for everyone, especially our clients. PSH and Rapid Re-Housing clients need your support now more than ever in order to stay stably housed, stay mentally and physically healthy, and get medical treatment if needed. People who are currently homeless need housing more than ever. However, in order to reduce spread of the virus to vulnerable clients or to your staff, it may be advisable to maintain contact with PSH and Rapid Re-Housing clients primarily over the phone if the clients have phones and do not require in-person communication, and to maintain physical space when communicating in person with clients so as to avoid transmission. You should also make plans for continuity of services in the event a staff member becomes ill or needs to self-quarantine.

2 Please consult the following resources to help reduce the spread of coronavirus:
HUD Infectious Disease Toolkits for CoCs

CDC Interim Guide for Homeless Shelters

3 It is important to realize that perhaps the most important thing that can be done to protect our clients (as well as your staff and everyone else in the community) from infection is to slow the spread of the virus in the wider community through what is known as “social distancing.”  On an individual level, that means do everything you can to reduce the number of people you come in direct contact with, and your staff comes in contact with, during the pandemic. Avoid crowds. Realize that you may be a carrier of the virus even though you do not have any symptoms, and that anyone you come in contact with may be a carrier. Even if you are not worried about getting the virus in terms of the impact on yourself, you need to be vigilant about inadvertently passing it on to others in the community who could get very sick or even die from it. To the extent possible, we recommend that programs do not require staff to come into the office unless it is essential to serving clients, so as to avoid unnecessary mingling and spreading of disease. Wherever possible, we recommend that staff be allowed to use their homes as offices, as is generally recommended by public health officials.

4 Protect your staff,  as they are our CoC’s most precious resource.  All staff members should be assured of sufficient paid sick leave to get them through the pandemic. That not only protects them, but protects clients and other staff from being infected. Allow staff members flexibility to cope with childcare issues caused by the closure of the schools. Staff members should be allowed to use their home as their office if feasible. Staff members who are considered to be at high risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract coronavirus (because they are over 60 or have chronic disease like asthma and lung conditions, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, weakened immune systems or are pregnant), or who live with household members with these vulnerabilities, should be allowed to work from home if at all possible. You might consider asking other staff without those vulnerabilities to take over certain duties that require being out in the field, in the office or in a shelter or other facility. Protective equipment such as gloves, hand sanitizers and masks may be appropriate for staff. We understand these policies may entail making sure staff have the resources to work from home through a cell phone, laptop computer, or other resources, or the purchase of protective equipment. You may also need to ensure staff have remote access to computer files and databases. Contact UNITY Contracts Manager if you would like to request a budget revision to include these costs.

5 Please make redundancy plans for payroll, financial management, and approval functions should key staff become ill for some period during the pandemic. Make sure that multiple staff know how to do and are authorized to do the key functions should some become temporarily incapacitated.

Finally, in order to help slow the spread of coronavirus in the community, most UNITY staff will be primarily working from home beginning Monday, March 16. All CoC meetings will be conducted by conference calls and/or video conferencing, including weekly navigator meetings, the March SPPA meeting, and other CoC meetings. The best way to reach UNITY staff is by email or cell phone; in addition, we will be checking the voicemail system throughout the day and returning calls. We may also hold trainings to keep the CoC staff informed and engaged during this time. We are also participating in local and state emergency efforts to respond to this emergency.

Food Resource

April 2, 2020 Meal Distribution for the New Orleans Homeless Population at Lantern Light Ministry at the Rebuild Center 1803 Gravier Street – in the parking …
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Food Resource

Grace at Greenlight Breakfast 6:30a.m.-7:15a.m., 7 days/week Lunch (bag lunch) 1:00 p.m. Location: Living Witness Church Address: 1528 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. Ozanam Inn Breakfast 6 a.m. 7 days/week Lunch 2 p.m. 7 days/week …
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Mental Health Resource

Keeping Calm through COVID Hotline connects you to trained, compassionate counselors who can offer support and who can direct you to mental health and substance abuse …
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Please let us know of any concerns or problems you have. If you need to reach us, Martha can be reached at mkegel@unitygno.org or (504)952-3348 (cell) or (504)821-4496 ext 107 (office).  Valerie Coffin can be reached at vcoffin@unitygno.org or (504)233-8757 (google voice) or (504)821-4496 x112 (office). 

Above all, please know how deeply we care about you and how much we appreciate all you do for the homeless.  Our community has gotten through many trying times, and this one will be no different.  We look forward to our very first in-person CoC meeting after all this is over!