Our emergency shelter typically relies heavily on volunteers—in the first three quarters of FY2020, more than 700 volunteers from 25 congregations supported the Interfaith Hospitality Network! These volunteers are the core of the program. They share food, spend the night, play with children and lend their passion and expertise to help families get back on their feet. And, in the process, they truly create “home”–and a community–for families.
But since March, we’ve had to make some changes to our shelter model. We’re increasing cleaning, social distancing, wearing masks, limiting donations, and restricting visitors to prevent the transmission of coronavirus. And we’ve implemented a safe plan to provide emergency shelter with minimal contact and valuable volunteer support. Referrals from Your Way Home, Montgomery County’s centralized intake for emergency shelter, continue. When a new family arrives at Inter-Faith, they quarantine for 14 days at our Day Center at Hope Gardens. During that time, case management is conducted virtually and basic needs (food, personal care items, etc.) are provided. Then the family moves to a local congregation that has offered space, allowing us to bring in another family to the Day Center.
Volunteers from congregations are still providing support–bringing meals, providing grocery gift cards and cleaning supplies, and donating needed items when a family exits shelter. We’re very grateful to our 25 participating congregations, who have been so flexible in accommodating these changing needs.