How We Are Responding to COVID-19
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (March 13, 2020) – With the novel coronavirus now declared a pandemic, The Salvation Army has significantly increased its preparation for an impending outbreak in the United States and has ramped up efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus, especially among the homeless and other vulnerable populations.
Salvation Army Facilities Serving Vulnerable Populations
With one in six people living in poverty and over 550,000 people counted as homeless, a disproportionate number of Americans impacted by this outbreak possibly will be lower-income or experiencing homelessness. Although people experiencing homelessness can be more isolated, they also tend to have chronic medical issues and severely lack access to proper hygiene, updated information, medical resources, and care.
In our residential facilities, close living conditions mean infectious disease can easily spread among residents. Additional cleaning throughout the day, with elevated focus on high-traffic areas, and sanitation supplies are part of every location’s infectious-disease protocol. If a resident or staff member gets sick, isolation/quarantine areas will be established, additional healthcare will be needed, and staff needs will increase.
Several industries are at risk of financial hardship, such as travel and hospitality. We anticipate a significant increase in emergency assistance for low-wage employees who may be temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus. Types of support include rent/mortgage, utility, and food assistance.
Ensuring the safety of those who depend on The Salvation Army’s programs and services, along with the safety of staff and volunteers, is of utmost priority. We are working with health officials at the local, state, and federal levels – including participating in situation-awareness calls with federal partners such as FEMA, CDC, DHS, and HHS. Hygiene and prevention guidance in accordance with recommendations from CDC is being used and shared with staff, volunteers, and program participants. Additional protocols are being formed quickly across the U.S. should further restrictions be placed on our communities.
Salvation Army Efforts in High-Impact Areas
In Washington State
- Housing programs and shelter programs will remain fully operational with precautionary measures, like daily resident communication, no congregate meetings, access to cleaning supplies, increased space between residents, etc.
- In King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties, all senior activities and gatherings have been suspended through the end of March, church services have been suspended for the next Sundays, and guests going to food banks will register at the door without entering.
In New York City
- Rockland and Westchester Counties have suspended all activities related to school closure and government containment area decisions.
- Where possible, staff are developing plans for remote emotional and spiritual care and worship using live-stream tools or video calling.
- We are participating in planning conversations with NYC Emergency Management around mobile food delivery (e.g., delivering prepared meals to seniors who depend on them at NYC Department for the Aging senior centers).
- Each facility is screening visitors in advance and upon arrival for fever or signs of acute respiratory illness and assessing existing clients upon admission to the facility.
- Our Emergency Disaster Services team has a standing seat on the Office of Emergency Management and Communication planning team.
- Snacks and beverages have been provided to O’Hare International Airport for the past six weeks to personnel and passengers being tested for coronavirus.
- Congregate senior lunch that was occurring daily is now providing meals in to-go boxes and food delivery as necessary.
In North Texas
- Shelters are actively screening incoming residents and volunteers by asking about any symptoms. If anyone exhibits or reports coronavirus symptoms, staff immediately recommend medical treatment at a nearby county hospital.
- If necessary, special quarantine areas will be set up inside the shelters, and noncritical services will be temporarily suspended.
Individuals we serve daily will feel the impacts of this crisis on a greater level. We need support from our communities to be able to continue to provide these vulnerable populations with adequate support throughout this pandemic. As the situation evolves, we will work in close partnership to prepare and respond to meet the needs of the 23 million people we serve each year and the more than 63,000 employees of our organization.
The Salvation Army annually helps nearly 23 million Americans overcome poverty, addiction, and economic hardships through a range of social services. By providing food for the hungry, emergency relief for disaster survivors, rehabilitation for those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, and clothing and shelter for people in need, The Salvation Army is doing the most good at 7,600 centers of operation around the country. In the first-ever listing of “America’s Favorite Charities” by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Salvation Army ranked as the country’s largest privately funded, direct-service nonprofit. For more information, visit SalvationArmyUSA.org. Follow us on Twitter: @SalvationArmyUS and #DoingTheMostGood.