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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Davis Community Meals and Housing’s hopeful projection for 2022

Davis Community Meals and Housing faced changes during the pandemic, but officials are optimistic about the future

By CHRIS PONCE  — city@theaggie.org

 

The effects of the pandemic have repercussions for both the local area and businesses alike. Because of their general demographics, people experiencing homelessness (PEH) are at a very high risk for contracting COVID-19. A study conducted by BMC Public Health concluded that those experiencing homelessness in the U.S. are especially vulnerable to impacts of the pandemic.

“The particular vulnerability of PEH and consequently the increased risk for PEH to contribute to community transmission of COVID-19 should have prioritized these populations in pandemic response and relief efforts,” the authors of the study stated.

Davis Community Meals and Housing is a local non-profit organization that aims to provide housing and meals for people in need, according to a statement on their website. Davis Community Meals and Housing has been operating since 1990. Throughout the pandemic, Davis Community Meals and Housing had to uniquely adjust its outreach and guidelines to further aid the local Davis community. 

One of the first major changes Davis Community Meals and Housing observed during the pandemic was not being able to provide a dinner on Thanksgiving 2020. In a statement made on the Davis Community Meals and Housing website, the organization urged high-risk volunteers to avoid participating. “We request that all volunteers who are deemed to be in a vulnerable class of individuals or for any other reason to stop volunteering at this time. Your health and safety is very important to us,” the website stated. Davis Community Meals and Housing Executive Director Bill Pride commented on these changes. 

“The biggest change during the pandemic was we had to switch from indoor seating and dining for the folks coming to eat with us to actually handing out sandwiches and that type of thing,” Pride said. “We’re transitioning back to the sit-down dinners hopefully by May or June this year [2022].” 

Pride also commented on how the pandemic affected outreach for the organization. 

“It’s certainly affected the number of folks we’ve had and a few other things, but we still managed to feed a lot of people every week,” Pride said.

Davis Community Meals and Housing heavily relies on volunteers. Its volunteers work in a variety of programs offered by Davis Community Meals and Housing, such as the Meal Program, Resource Center and the Shelter and Transitional Housing Program. Pride said that the pandemic also had an impact on volunteer outreach. 

“Soon it affected our volunteer base quite a bit because many of the volunteers working there were older and [were] a highly vulnerable population, so some of those folks have not volunteered probably for a year or year and a half,” Pride said. “Some of them have come back, and some of them still haven’t come back. It affected our ability to have the number of volunteers we’ve had there in the past. I usually have, every week, probably about 50-60 volunteers there on various days, and that’s probably down to less than 50 at this point.”

 In spite of having to make some adjustments, Davis Community Meals and Housing has still managed to keep most of its operations and projects open and ongoing. Its Resource Center has remained open and still has around 35-40 people visiting each day, according to Pride. Its Transitional Housing program is still running and functional. The Street outreach program is still at work multiple days a week as well. 

During May 2020, Davis Community Meals and Housing was involved in the addition of the new Creekside Permanent Supportive Housing. This housing has 90 units total, surpassing the 52 units provided by the Cesar Chavez Plaza Permanent Supportive Housing. Davis Community Meals and Housing will continue to aid current residents and help those experiencing homlessness find housing in these locations. A support service coordinator will be on site full time. 

Aside from the transition from the pandemic, Davis Community Meals and Housing has set its sights on the future. The organization has been in the process of building a new project. Pride outlined the group’s plans for an older building that has been in the works for years.  

Davis Community Meals and Housing has operated a site at 1111 H Street since 1994. It has served as a daily resource center and as living quarters. Over the last few years, the group has been raising money to rebuild the site and include 18 apartment units, according to Pride.

“We managed to get the approval from the city, get a building permit, and it’s kind of right now about 50-60% complete,” Pride said. “And it’s supposed to open for occupancy probably by about September/October this year.”

The BMC Study suggested the importance of shelters and volunteers during the pandemic. The study emphasized that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach that can be taken when handling the situation of homelessness and COVID-19. 

The authors of the BMC study (Rodriguez, Lahey, MacNeil, Martinez, Teo and Ruiz)  concluded that, “Community-based organizations, including homeless shelters, are uniquely qualified to inform, and should be included in planning efforts for, pandemic response.”

Written by: Chris Ponce — city@theaggie.org

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