APRIL 2020 APPEAL LETTER
I usually start these appeal letters about three weeks before the mailing date and they get written without much difficulty. This time however, I have had to rewrite this letter three times as rapidly changing events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have made what I had planned to write obsolete. There is every possibility that what I’m writing now will be out of date by the time you receive it in early April as events seem to be changing almost daily.
As the reality of the pandemic set in, governments at all levels initially requested people cut back on their social interactions and then invoked “shelter in place” orders. Amidst all this we weren’t sure if we should or would be able to continue operating our dining room and homeless shelter. The question faced us: “How do we respond to this emerging public health crisis and looming economic crisis?”
I learned from my experience at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker – where we lived through the AIDS crisis and the Los Angeles riots – that stopping our compassionate response to human suffering just wasn’t an option, no matter what. Our faith and our conscience demand we continue our work with those in need in our community. With that in mind I am happy to announce that Catholic Worker Hospitality House remains open to serve those most in need in our community. The “shelter in place” order recently issued by area governments, which has closed many events and businesses, does not apply to social service providers, so we continue feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.
We are very thankful for the support we continue to receive from St. Bruno’s Catholic Church where our dining room and shelter are located. At a time when church services aren’t being celebrated and most churches are closing their meeting rooms to meal programs and other events, St. Bruno’s continues to live out their deep and abiding Catholic faith by being open to our “serving the body of Christ in our midst” through our dining room and homeless shelter.
In response to the health risks posed by COVID-19 we have changed how we operate our dining room and homeless shelter. Until further notice we will no longer be a seated dining room, but will only serve food to go. We will continue to offer our usual food choices: oatmeal, fruit, soup, casseroles, sandwiches, etc. The only difference is they will be pre-packaged in to go containers to limit the risk of spreading the virus to guests, volunteers, or staff. We will also continue offering hot coffee, milk, and water to our guests.
Sadly, we have temporarily halted our shower services, feeling it poses too great a risk of spreading the virus to our guests. We do this with a heavy heart knowing how important it is for some of our guests to get cleaned up during our dining room serving hours.
We will continue shelter operations, but have reduced the number of guests at the shelter from eight to six to provide more space between guests. We feel that closing the shelter at this time would just be putting people on the streets, making a bad situation worse.
Our boarding houses will continue to operate as usual, although with more emphasis placed on social distancing and cleaning. Our Second Ave house has three residents over seventy, one of whom is going through radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer. I worry about them. At Chapman house all the residents are “young” (under sixty) and tend to self-isolate in the best of times, so I’m not so worried about that house. I am worried that some of the residents are losing their jobs due to the emerging economic crisis created by the pandemic. While we charge a minimal rent at our boarding houses to make the housing sustainable, I have informed the residents that if they are laid-off due to “shelter in place” orders their rent will be suspended until they get back to work. No one will lose housing due to lack of income.
We have also increased our regular cleaning procedures. We are now cleaning all surfaces with the bleach-water mixture recommended by health officials before, during, and after our serving times. We are also wearing gloves and washing our hands constantly.
We regret having to take the above precautions, but we do it with the best long-term interests of those we serve in mind. These new procedures will remain in place until health officials feel it is once again safe for folks to congregate.
While I, along with the shelter staff and a couple of volunteers remain to do the work, we are totally supportive of our volunteers who have had to stop volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of our volunteers are either elderly, live with elderly, or have health issues that put them at risk. While we miss their presence and assistance we do not want them put them at risk. We know how difficult it is for them not to be there with us serving our guests. We’re sure they’ll be back when it is safe for them to do so.
While I boldly announced earlier in this letter that we will not close because of the pandemic and will continue serving those in need in our community, there is one caveat. What happens if we get sick? We are a small operation – I’m the only paid staff at the dining room now that Christine is on sick leave and at present we still only have two to three regular volunteers at the dining room. Would a shelter staff person or one of the volunteers take over if I get incapacitated? Would we have to close the dining room due to lack of staffing? I don’t know the answers to these are questions, but we will delve into them in the coming days and weeks to come up with a contingency plan.
During this time we ask for your continued prayers for those we serve at our various service projects, for all those already exposed to the virus and who will be exposed to the virus in the coming days and months, and for all those who will be affected by the emerging economic crisis created by this pandemic. We are living in extraordinary times, may our faith always continue to guide us.
In Christ’s Peace,
Catholic Worker Hospitality House
Individual packets of sugar and creamer
To Go hot soup containers and lids
12 & 16 oz. hot cups and lids
Canned Soup (very low!!)
Money, for our ongoing expenses
We remain open, but will be closing. As most of you know, we close our dining room and homeless shelter four to five times a year for staff and volunteer vacation. We will close Friday, April 17 after the dining room and reopen on Monday, April 20. So if you call or stop by during this time, we haven’t closed shop, we’re just on vacation.
FURTHER STEPS INTO THE 21ST CENTURY
I am a well-known technology dinosaur, but at the loving urging of my wife I am slowly entering the digital age. Here are our recent steps to modernize.
–FACEBOOK: We do have a Facebook page, but it has been dormant for a while. I have recently updated the page and have committed to posting regularly. It can be found at Catholic Worker Hospitality House of San Bruno. Join us and see what’s happening at Catholic Worker Hospitality House.
–EMAIL ADDRESSES: We will continue sending out our old-school paper appeal letters, but would like to develop an email mailing list so we can send updates on our work or special events. If you would like to be on our email list, then send your email to: email@example.com. Thanks
–ONLINE GIVING: You can donate to Catholic Worker Hospitality House (one-time or recurring through PayPal or your workplace account on Benevity. Thank you for your continued support of our work with those in need in our community.