Supportive housing essential workers are the unsung heroes of COVID-19 – putting their own lives at risk to serve the most vulnerable. Though under-resourced, supportive housing agencies stepped up and found creative ways to provide support to their staff through these unprecedented times. Raihana Bosse, Program Director at Henry Street Settlement, Mark Jennings, Associate Executive Director at Project FIND, Adina Barbosa, Deputy Chief Program Officer at CUCS, and Fred Shack, Chief Executive Officer at Urban Pathways, discussed ways in which their respective organizations rose to the challenge and supported their frontline staff. The conversation was moderated by Jeannette Ruffins, Chief Executive Officer at West End Residences.
Bosse mentioned how COVID-19 served as an opportunity for staff to connect with each other in new ways. "The pandemic caused the world to stop and re-evaluate things. You realize and notice people now more. Your colleagues are not just your colleagues,” she said.
Ruffins added that it caused her to reevaluate agency systems and procedures. She said that before COVID-19, working from home was a luxury only afforded to some staff members, but the pandemic proved that all staff members were able to work from home effectively and efficiently. “There are a lot of ways we need to look out our organizations and think about how we can be more equitable,” she said.
Barbosa pointed out that adapting to the challenges COVID-19 has presented is an ongoing process, and how communication across sites helps CUCS come up with creative solutions. She said, “Onboarding new staff is a challenge. How do we provide them with an understanding of the agency culture? We are gathering creative ways that staff have been doing that across our sites.”
Shack stressed the importance of continuing to find ways to ensure frontline staff are supported, “We need to make a commitment to supportive housing staff post-COVID. It elevated how essential our employees are, not just because there’s a pandemic. They are essential because we can’t do this work without them. They are essential because our clients do not get better without them.”