Tom and Lorraine, along with their one-year-old daughter, entered the Interfaith Hospitality Network in July 2020, after Tom lost his job and they became homeless.
Remember last July? When we were being told to shelter at home?
Many shelters had to suspend operations when COVID hit.
We didn’t. Because during the pandemic, families needed housing more than ever before. You can’t shelter at home when you have no home.
We set up a protocol for all families entering our shelter program—that pending COVID tests, families would live in our Day Center, and isolate with no contact (other than by phone or Zoom) with staff or volunteers.
Tom, Lorraine, and their little girl all tested positive for COVID. And we housed them safely at the Day Center throughout their illness—which was luckily mild.
After they recovered, they moved into a congregation that had volunteered to host the emergency shelter. It was a leap of faith for this congregation, but staff at Inter-Faith and congregation leaders worked together to come up with a plan to provide shelter space in a way that was safe for both families and volunteers.
Meanwhile, Tom started interviewing and Lorraine went back to her job at WaWa. In a meeting with our case manager, Caroline, Lorraine mentioned that she had gone to school to become a licensed dental assistant, but never sat for the exam. Caroline encouraged Lorraine to take the exam—and she passed! She quickly got a job as a dental assistant at almost double the income. Tom found another job, and they started saving.
Tom and Lorraine wanted to move closer to Philadelphia, where they had family support. With their savings, they were able to move into an apartment, paying fair market rent, close to family.