In mid-September, we will officially mark the six-month anniversary of living with the COVID pandemic. At St. Francis House, we certainly don’t celebrate the existence of this terrible pandemic, but we do commend the incredible resilience and strength of our staff and guests over the past few months. That response has been continuing to offer essential services for more than 500 individuals in need, day in and day out.
Over the past six months we’ve made a lot of changes:
- Every day, at the front door, we distribute clean face masks to our guests and make sure the hand sanitizer is readily available on every tabletop. In addition, we have also added a hand-washing station in our lobby.
- We’ve installed plexiglass dividers and distance-markers on our floors and walls so that we can all stay safe and socially distant from each other while continuing to carry on our work and meet the needs of our guests.
- Our hardworking team onsite works one-on-one with guests, ensuring they stay informed of COVID-19 precautions, and encourage guests to do a thorough washing as often as they can. (We sometimes do overhear folks singing Happy Birthday twice – it’s an effective strategy!)
- All of our classrooms and offices now have HEPA filters and have been reconfigured to maximize space.
- Our congregate spaces, such as the dining room, our Atrium, and Resource Center, have been reorganized so that there’s a smoother and safer flow of traffic.
- We’ve reworked our meal program permanently, and are now offering cold grab-and-go items throughout the day. Our hot meals are now served in takeaway containers so our guests can spread out beyond the dining room, find a park bench on the Common on pleasant days, or take it to-go to eat at their own pace.
- And we haven’t forgotten our residents, who live in our affordable, supportive housing units. We’ve been protecting them with PPE, best practices training, and food and medicine delivery if needed.
In making these changes and as we plan for the future, the team at St. Francis House has been grateful to have the visit of an infectious disease specialist to make recommendations.
Moving forward, we’ll be redesigning a number of guest spaces throughout 39 Boylston, always with an eye toward balancing safety and security with the need to make our guests feel comfortable and welcome, and to ensure that they’re afforded the dignity they so deserve.
With many of our staff members working from home over the past few months, we’ve made other changes as well. Program staff found alternative ways to connect with guests: online, over the phone, and even outdoors.
We are beginning to welcome staff members who have been working remotely back to St. Francis House, and some volunteers have started helping out in the kitchen again. Looking towards the future, there will be a new normal. It will, of course, be one in which we continue to adapt to our guests’ needs and help each and every one of them on their unique path towards rebuilding their lives.