Over the last ten weeks we have learned to speak some new words. Words that were not familiar to any of us in our day to day language. Words that have changed the way we live our lives and interact with others. This has challenged us, some days creating fear that we could not control so many of the unknowns.
Reading and listening to the news helped keep us informed, but at the same time, it pushed us to plan for what may be life or death decisions. When I sit with those thoughts, I know that we make decisions that save lives every day, so why is this so much harder. The answer came to me as I began to feel the effects of stress all throughout my body -- keeping a constant headache, not sleeping at night, feeling short in patience and trembling on the inside. Checking in with other staff, we realized that several of us were feeling the same physical effects.
We are problem solvers, spending our days helping others to process trauma and rebuild foundations that will support their lives and their futures. So why was this virus so different? I realized that our staff could not leave this at work and go home to our quiet places to escape the stress. When the day at work was done, the virus still loomed over our own homes and families. We had the fear of taking it home with us, exposing those we love. We had a car filled with supplies, extra food and clothing that we had to carry in and out nightly, because we have been living in limbo, awaiting that word, “quarantine.”
Some staff began to talk about how we would continue to care for others, including our own families, if we got sick. Some pulled out their life insurance policies and looked over end of life planning, just in case the worst came to pass. We watched the over one hundred residents stressed, about being “locked in the building,” and struggling with social distancing guidelines and hand-washing directives.
Nonetheless, we continued our work, adapting each day to a new protocol, recommendation or best practice; while having to make difficult decisions that went against our core values. Actions like suspending ‘client choice’ in our Food Pantry and prepacking boxes of food for drive-thru distribution, installing a Plexiglas barrier around the front desk and having to turn-away homeless individuals who had traveled outside of our regional service area.
We operate every day, 24-hours a day, as a vital safety net to hundreds of individuals and families and don’t have the option of closing or ‘taking a break.’ We remain steadfast and will continue to do what needs to be done to house, feed and assist the vulnerable among us.
We accept that this is our frontline.