When COVID-19 struck, the supportive housing community struggled immensely. Providers were desperate for support in how to best protect residents and employees in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. Enter Alaina Deans and Michelle Mays of Doctors Without Borders, whose quick response and calm reassurance put our community at ease.
Michelle Mays is the US Programs Advisor for Doctors Without Borders and the organization’s COVID-19 response in New York City. She has worked primarily in conflict, natural disaster and epidemic settings, including in India, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Jordan, Ethiopia and Nigeria. Alaina Deans works for Doctors Without Borders as a Health Promotion Activities Manager. She has worked on humanitarian and public health programs in Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Chad.
The supportive housing community was grateful to have such accomplished and skilled practitioners serving as advisors during the pandemic. Ann Shalof, Executive Director at Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter, said “When people who’ve battled Alaina Deans & Michelle Mays Doctors Without Borders Ebola tell you what you need to do, it carries a lot of weight.”
Alaina and Michelle visited residences and assessed for infection control and potential risk factors, installing handwashing stations and providing guidance on PPE practices. “It was so helpful to have skilled professionals look with a fresh eye at our procedures and protocols,” said Beth Stubenbord, Director of Housing at Fountain House.
Not only did Alaina and Michelle provide in-person support to our members, they also set up a hotline that providers could call for immediate support and guidance. Ann Shalof said the hotline was indispensable as it provided “answers to medical questions and judgement calls when we didn’t know where to turn. The number was hanging in my office and in every residence.”
Mark Jennings, Associate Executive Director of Project FIND, expressed how essential the advice Alaina and Michelle dispensed was to protecting tenants and staff. He said, “Things like wearing a mask correctly, not wearing gloves all day, having signs posted conspicuously, and the many suggestions they provided were invaluable to our efforts.”
While the challenges facing our community were extraordinary, Alaina and Michelle were steadfast in their support and guidance. For all they provided to our community in a time of great need, the Network is honored to name Alaina Deans and Michelle Mays COVID Heroes.