Look for the helpers, thank them—and then be one!

Mr. Rogers told us as kids that when things get really scary, we should “look for the helpers.” What great advice to get us all through what was a no-good, terrible year.

But we need to do more.

I loved watching the videos of people in large cities clapping as doctors and nurses went to work each day, but so many others have stepped up to help for the past year—and many have never been thanked or rewarded for their work.

After a year of working overtime and with little resources, these helpers need our appreciation and help. 

There are too many stories of how those serving the homeless have sacrificed over the past yearfor me to know about them all—much less list them.

When COVID first arrived in Kentucky, shelters had to rethink their space and beg for PPE to keep people safe. Many were making their own cleaning supplies and had staff working three double shifts because they had to send volunteers home. Shelter and service staff had to stay away from loved ones to keep everyone safe when they continued to go into work. They worried each night and day that they may bring the virus in or out. Later, many were grieving after the deaths of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee, but still went to work because they were needed. Shelter staff became cleaning experts, then testing experts, then TCI experts, all while policies and COVID numbers changed week after week.

Outreach workers also continued to serve the homeless through COVID. Early on, they had to help people find food when feeding programs closed or the numbers of people needing food increased. They worried about serving those who needed transportation when that was no longer a safe practice. They helped people make difficult decisions about when heading to a hospital was a good idea (or not). And they worked during the highest COVID case numbers to get people indoors by opening up churches and other facilities during the worst weather.

It isn’t hard to find the helpers. Simply go to our website for a list of members and partners doing this work. You can send a donation to any or all of them, or send letters to these frontline workers to thank them for all they’re doing to keep so many safe in our city. Invite friends to send positive support on social media. Send a pizza, fruit basket, or gift card to someone who has done something amazing and important to make our community better. Now is a great time to send love and thanks.

And as we all get vaccinated and the COVID numbers decrease, we can all become helpers. Homeless services nonprofits are slowly increasing their volunteer opportunities again, and there are always things you can do to help them fundraise and communicate about their work. Find an organization you can support and that supports your efforts to help make Louisville even better.

To keep you inspired, this is a list of just some of the amazing things those who serve the homeless accomplished over the past year, in spite of COVID:

  • Advocated for millions in assistance from Metro Louisville and the federal government in order to support homeless programs and eviction prevention​​
  • Reorganized shelter space to create social distancing and safely serve those in need
  • Acquired (and even created) PPE to keep staff and residents safe
  • Advocated for and worked with the Department of Public Health to implement testing and vaccination plans
  • Created TCI support for children in multiple schools and grades to continue their educations
  • Created a new 24-hour shelter space for anyone to come in and stay socially distant
  • Created an isolation center for those without housing
  • Avoided outbreaks in the shelter system until the greater community numbers peaked during the holidays
  • Created programs for homeless families to quickly move to hotels and then transition to permanent housing
  • Created a partnership with LMHA to move people experiencing homelessness into public housing
  • Created a transportation program to safely transport the homeless
  • Created pop-up spaces for the homeless in churches and other sites during the extreme weather
  • Assisted hundreds of households with funding to prevent eviction and utility shut-off
  • Notified households about the eviction process to help them maintain their housing
  • Worked with the courts to strengthen the voices of tenants to avoid evictions
  • Created a navigation program to help those who do lose housing to quickly get rehoused

There’s so much more that has been done over the past year, from helping individuals to improving our systems for everyone. People in homeless services continue to do this work, and now it’s our job to support and thank them. Join me in doing so today!