The COVID-19 health crisis has had a devastating impact across the country, including right here in our own community. As businesses closed and shelter-in-place orders were put into place, individuals and families struggled to adjust to the new normal. The individuals and families Waypoint serves were hit even harder as they worked to navigate homelessness, domestic violence, and poverty now intensified by unemployment, health concerns, and social isolation. Please read below to see how COVID-19 affected our programs.
Housing & Homeless Services
Our Housing & Homeless Services’ team have adjusted service delivery to continue supporting individuals and families experiencing homelessness and housing instability while following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). Our Housing Specialists and Housing Administrative staff members have been working remotely, supporting clients over the phone and having virtual meetings. Staffing was increased at the Madge Phillips Center Shelter to keep operations open 24/7 to provide a safe place for women and families with children experiencing homelessness. Extra precautions have been added to keep everyone safe and healthy, including limiting face-to-face contact, wearing masks, increased sanitation measures, and following social distancing guidelines. In addition, our Shelter Services Line is answered 24/7 to support households facing a housing crisis or needing emergency shelter.
We have seen an increased need for services as the community response to physical social distancing has increased barriers for clients experiencing homelessness. With local libraries closed, clients often do not have access to a computer or internet to access email, fill out job applications, or search for housing. With public transportation unavailable, clients have no way to get to work, attend job interviews, view potential housing, or access other community resources, such as the Department of Human Services, to apply for support programs. Those who have not been able to access emergency shelter also lack access to basic sanitation practices, such as hand washing areas and showers, regular meals, and medical attention.
In order to address these increased barriers, we need the community to come together. If you are a community landlord, support creative housing options or reach out to organizations addressing housing needs to partner and develop solutions. If you have spare time, please consider volunteering with Waypoint to help clean and sanitize Madge Phillips Center Shelter.
Domestic Violence Victim Services
Our Domestic Violence Victim Services Program continue to work with individuals experiencing intimate partner violence but have changed their service delivery. Victim Advocates are working remotely, and most interactions with clients are taking place over the phone or through virtual meetings offering peer counseling, legal advocacy, medical advocacy, housing support, and safety planning. In addition, our Resource & Support Line is available 24/7.
Survivors are even more isolated than before with less options to stay safe. Plans to flee relationships have become more difficult because of COVID-19. Safe havens from abuse, such as work, the gym, and the grocery store, may no longer be accessible, and long periods of time with an abusive partner can increase the risk of physical and emotional harm. School closures also increases the likelihood that children will witness or experience harm from abusive parents. With limited ways to cope, mitigate risks, or leave home, victims are experiencing increased fear and hopelessness.
COVID-19 is also limited options for victims who are looking to move forward after experiencing domestic violence. If someone decides to leave their partner, they may struggle to find a job, access child care, or secure permanent housing—all things necessary to ensure they are able to find stability for themselves and their family. “While the demand for services currently remains the same, I would not be surprised, if the need increases in both complexity and frequency due to all the challenges social isolation creates,” said Nelly Hill, Director of Domestic Violence Victim Services.
KidsPoint Child Care remained open several weeks after COVID-19 made its way to our community. Because we believe in the importance of access to quality, affordable child care for all, we wanted to do our part in providing care so parents who were considered essential employees could continue to work while knowing their children were safe and taken care of. As COVID-19 progressed, we determined that temporarily closing all child care locations was the best option in order to keep our children, families, and staff safe and healthy. We are hopeful we can reopen sooner rather than later.
How You Can Help
Staff are balancing the essential work they do while doing their part to stop community spread of COVID-19. They are doing their best to ensure clients have access to essential items and services so they can move forward in their lives. Your support will have a direct impact on those in crisis in our community. Funds will support transportation, rental assistance, and basic needs for survivors or domestic violence and basic needs, such as food and hygiene items, for individuals experiencing a housing crisis.
If you are interested in making a gift to support any of Waypoint’s critical programs, click here. Monetary donations and gift card donations can also be sent in the mail to: Waypoint, 318 5th St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
Many domestic violence victim service providers are expecting an increase in need for their services as COVID-19 continues to impact communities across the country. As businesses closed and stay-at-home orders were put in place, survivors of domestic violence faced a heightened risk of abuse if they were at home with their abuser and increased financial difficulties as many people were forced to apply for unemployment.
April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month, which is truly a time to celebrate all the incredible individuals and groups who make an impact at Waypoint. Especially during times of crisis and uncertainty, which we are all facing now due to the spread of COVID-19 across the country and in our community, volunteers are now more important than ever and even more deserving of recognition. While we can’t recognize our volunteers in a traditional way, we are doing our best to send our love and support virtually as we patiently wait for the day that we can all be together again.