CHICAGO, Ill. — As homeless shelters have been limited by the coronavirus, the Clerics of Saint Viator will help fund an initiative to house homeless people amid the pandemic.
The religious order based in Arlington Heights, a Chicago suburb, has donated $63,000 to help over 60 homeless people stay at two hotels in the city. The initiative will last for at least three weeks, but it will likely be extended.
The religious order partnered with Journeys: The Road Home in Palatine to help homeless people have a place to quarantine during this pandemic. As of March 25, over 1,800 cases of the coronavirus have occurred in Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reported.
As the organization has also received donations from numerous other religious organizations in the area, the hotels were able to house 81 people last night with 10 more clients who will be checked-in today.
Suzanne Ploger, Journey’s director of development, told CNA that it is essential to help homeless people protect themselves from the virus as they are unable to self-quarantine.
Not only has the pandemic caused public facilities and businesses to close, but it has closed homeless shelters. Because of the pandemic, the organization’s services and volunteers have been limited. She said a majority of the volunteers for the homeless ministry are elderly people, who also need to be kept safe from the outbreak.
Experts are urging people to “ stay indoors, and then all the restaurants are closing and all the public facilities are closing,” she said.
“If you don't have a home to shelter in place, where are you supposed to be? That's where we were struggling with how we can provide the best services to our clients and keep them safe as well as be able to keep our staff and our volunteers healthy too.”
She said the clients have been chosen by those who are most at risk of COVID-19. She said the organization has prioritized 100 people who normally use their shelters and ranked them in terms of those with advanced age, families, or health issues.
“As we have secured the hotel room and we have secured the amount of funding to house that person in that hotel room for three weeks, then we house them and then we'd go down to the next rank on the list,” she said.
The organization will also help feed the clients in the hotel with a meal delivery system.
“We're packing up food pantry bags, we're packing up meals, some people are donating food again, and we're starting that system of delivering meals to the hotels. Right now we're doing it almost every day,” she said.
The Journey is a homeless service agency that partners with 21 religious organizations that provide emergency shelter. It began 30 years ago and, under normal circumstances, will house about 100 homeless people each night.
Besides the hotel, the organization will keep open a limited number of services including a food pantry, clothing closet, mail services, and emergency case management.
Father Daniel Hall, the provincial superior for the Viatorians, said, without living assistance, this pandemic may cause dozens of homeless people to get sick. He said this project should be important to Catholics and encouraged parishioners to donate.
"This is in line with our mission as a Catholic religious community," said Hall, according to the Daily Herald. "This crisis could lead to between 60 to 80 men, women and children on the verge of living on the streets, and even more vulnerable to the coronavirus."
"It is my hope that you join us in this commitment to care for our most vulnerable sisters and brothers during this crisis.”