Homelessness could increase due to COVID-19, how VOA is trying to help

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More and more people are reaching out to Volunteers of America since the outbreak of COVID-19, looking for services like homeless shelters and residential programs, according to Vice president of housing services Angela Harbin.

“Operations have definitely changed. The people who are staying with us still need all the things that they use to need. They need a safe, stable place to get off the streets but what safe looks like now is a little bit different,” said Angela Harbin, regional vice president of housing services for Volunteers of America, Upstate New York.

According the Homeless Research Institute, the homeless population could grow due to COVID-19.

They say many people were already facing housing challenges, with 10.9 million households spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing. And during an economic crisis, “the loss of a job or hours at work could quickly lead to homelessness.”

In an effort to protect those in the homeless community now and prepare for the future, Volunteers of America has increased site cleanings, limited resident movement throughout shelters and are taking daily temperature checks of residents and staff

“Thanks to grant from the United Way, we were able to provide wifi access and tablets to all the residents of our permanent supportive housing. This is huge in part, one, it helps us interactive with them more safely but also a lot of the behavioral health care has gone online,” said Harbin.

And with an estimated 800 people homeless in Rochester every night, this this work is vital.

“We have to have these critical serves in our community even during a really scary time,” said Harbin.

Volunteers of America is need need of supplies like food and face masks and are asking anyone looking to help, to reach out. The organization is hoping to receive money through the Emergency Solutions Grant-made possible under the CARES Act, to continue to support community needs