We decided on March 13, that with the COVID virus so prevalent, that we needed to close Respite until we figured out what was the best thing to. We had 8 friends staying with us. Most were scheduled to leave the next week. A few we had to help find a place to go. 

We closed Respite March 20 with the idea we would evaluate our situation, come up with a plan, and reopen on April 13.

March 29 we started the conversation about what it would look like to bring in and house 9 of our most vulnerable, unhoused Friends. We would ask them to come stay with us for at least two months. This was a big change from our average two-week stays we’ve maintained for the past 6 years. All the Respite staff agreed to continue to work their shifts at the new Respite. On March 30, we decided this was the right thing to do. We would reopen Respite April 6. 

We reached out to Homeward Bound, Dale Fells and Mission Health Partners, to come up with lists of the most vulnerable homeless friends in our area.

We were challenged by how to bring 9 friends off the street into a small space and make sure we were not causing anyone to be infected. We reached out to the city and county about getting everyone tested before they came in. We were told they couldn’t test anyone who was not symptomatic. Test results were taking 7 to 10 days to come back. 

We decided to ask the city to share rooms they had at a motel so we could isolate our friends for two weeks. The city had received money for a block of motel rooms and they only had a few people in them. The city decided they needed to hold those rooms for future need. We decided to fund the motel ourselves.

We had generated a list of 22 friends from the list that Homeward Bound, Dale Fells and Mission Health Partners came up with. Some of our friends were on all three lists. 

We met with each person on the list and explained what we were offering. A quarter of the friends we talked to did not want to be a part of the new Respite. It was too big of a commitment, coming to stay for two months. 

Several staff members were making calls to motels. Fortunately, we found one that would work with us and was very happy to help. We finalized an agreement with the Holiday Inn West on April 3. We set April 7 as the day to move in. Respite staff committed to staffing the motel 24/7 for the two-week period of quarantine. 

Next, went out and met with the top 9 candidates from our list. We explained the process of staying at the motel for two weeks and then moving into Respite. The majority of friends on the list had stayed at Respite before and knew what to expect. Eight Friends decided to come stay with us. One decided not to. We talked to the next person on the list and they decided they wanted to come stay with us.  

We moved friends to the motel April 7. Three friends did not show up on that day. The next day, one friend decided not to come. So, we talked to the next person on the list. We brought two friends in that day. We could not find the third. 

Once settled, we ended up being able to get tests from the Dogwood Health Trust. They felt we could get test results in 4 days. So on Wednesday, staff from Dale Fells Health Center came to the motel and tested all the friends staying there. One Friend refused to be tested and was asked to leave. The next person on the list was called and came in the same day. 

The last Friend came to the motel the next day and when he got there he changed his mind. We were able to get the last few friends tested that day. We ended up with 8 friends in the motel. 

Companions and staff volunteered their time and efforts to staff the motel 24/7 and provide three homemade meals, plus snacks, every day. 

Because all of our Friends have now receive negative COVID-19 test results, we get to move them “home”, to Respite, today!

Our deepest gratitude to EVERYONE who has made this possible. It has been an unbelievable beautiful testament to who we are at Haywood Street.