Father Joe’s Villages Staff Confront COVID-19 Crisis
Since its inception in 1950, Father Joe’s Villages has answered the call to serve vulnerable neighbors experiencing homelessness. Today, Father Joe’s Villages has become the largest homeless services provider in San Diego, and the trusted leader in providing emergency services to unsheltered neighbors in the community. That’s why, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Father Joe’s Villages’ staff were prepared to act.
Though these are difficult times, it is often during unprecedented crises that heroes are made. In the face of a pandemic, Father Joe’s Villages’ dedicated staff remain on the frontlines, providing critical services such as shelter, health care, meals and hygiene services to people living on the streets.
As the Referral Specialist for the Village Health Center, Father Joe’s Villages’ Federally Qualified Health Center, Mary Jo Scarpitti knows that providing health care to unsheltered neighbors is critical not only for them, but for the entire community. “We serve a high-risk population. If they were to get the virus, it is more likely to be fatal,” she explains. “Keeping our residents safe, keeps our community safe.”
Each day, Mary Jo and her colleagues at the Village Health Center ensure the wellbeing of shelter residents and walk-ins by screening them for possible Covid-19 symptoms. As the only homeless services provider also operating a health center, Father Joe’s Villages’ has been able to proactively screen residents and community members, rapidly isolate people who present with symptoms of COVID-19, and provide health care to those in the community who are most vulnerable to negative health outcomes. For further prevention, Father Joe’s Villages’ Street Health program is screening people out on the streets of San Diego who remain at a high risk of illness due to exposure and often unsanitary living conditions.
Father Joe’s Villages’ shelters and housing programs have brought hundreds of people in from the cold and provided them with a warm and safe place to stay during this uncertain time. As Residential Services Coordinator at the emergency shelter, Lynard Steward considers his job more critical now than ever. He works closely with residents and educates them on proper hygiene protocol like handwashing and room cleaning. Although Lynard does sometimes worry about being exposed to COVID-19, his commitment to serving those in need outweighs his fear. “I love my job,” Lynard shared with GB Magazine. “And I love helping the residents sheltered here.”
Like Lynard, K-9 Security Officer, Carol Barnes, is not one to back down when times get tough. “I don’t walk in fear,” Carol explains. “My job here is to uplift and empower. Our people need us.”
Father Joe’s Villages’ Security Team has become a beacon of hope to those in the shelter, reassuring residents that they will not be abandoned during this frightening time. Every day, their security team patrols the facilities to enforce current safety protocols like physical distancing. Carol and her team also supervise the Franklin Antonio Public Lunch Line, one of the few remaining food options for those on the streets, to ensure people remain six feet apart when lining up for their packaged meals each day.