Q&A with Executive Director of Life Connection Center in Lowell
As news started spreading about COVID-19, what did you and your team do to prepare?
It was all a matter of getting ahead of the situation while we could. The first thing we did was to check on our clients in need and ensure that they were aware of the situation, symptoms, and precautions they should be taking. We also connected with our program partners, including the Lowell Community Health Center, to understand how we could all work together during the pandemic.
How did everything at the Life Connection Center change once the disease began spreading in Massachusetts?
As a new reality of social distancing and business closures set in, we had to think about all the ways these changes could impact the people we serve. After restaurants closed, we connected with our homeless friends accessing harm reduction services and healthy meals at our center. Our concern was that they would not have access to basic human needs, food, bathrooms or any place to wash up. We responded by setting up portable toilets at our center outside and outdoor handwashing stations. We also used these areas to provide information about the importance of handwashing.
To ensure that our friends would continue to receive health my meals we started an outdoor grab & go option for meals and snacks for both lunch and dinner.
Another exciting innovation concerned access to correct information. We started what we are now calling “Outreach TV,” as we found that our friends were receiving conflicting information about COVID-19 symptoms and resources.
We also installed a digital sign that faces the road in our busy neighborhood with important updates and information. We are including COVID-19 updates, our service updates, and updates for other programs that have moved to telehealth.
How did the RIZE rapid response grant help the Life Connection Center and the people you serve?
This grant has been a critical part of our operations and efforts. We have utilized it to support extra staff hours, to support the purchase of our “Outreach TV” station, extra supplies including harm reduction materials, food, take-home packaging, hygiene products, and homeless care kits.
Can you explain the new way you are sharing materials to the people you serve that involved a bit of a renovation?
In order to promote social distancing, we installed a pass-through door to safely distribute hygiene products, medical supplies, clean syringes and naloxone throughout the pandemic. But we continue to do outreach in the homeless encampments to check on folks as well to make sure they are aware of the resources still available to them during this ever-changing crisis.
What’s on the horizon? How else do you all plan on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath?
Right now, we are taking it day by day. We are exploring how we can support our friends if they get sick, if they need to be quarantined and if they need any other help. We are exploring bringing on web-based groups and a text-based alert system for clients.
We are particularly excited to keep these new options and resources available after this crisis is over. We are being challenged and pushed toward exciting innovation during a time when our vulnerable friends are in such great need.
We continue to be dedicated to bringing safe, radical love and ongoing care to our friends as long as we are able. We have become an oasis in the desert, and we intend on making sure the waters of hope do not run dry.