Health and life during COVID-19
Laurie Nelson
 |  Opinion contributor

There is a saying: “Show me a budget and I will show you your values.” My take is: “Show us how you invest your time, and we will show you your values.”

Values are the core of how we operate. The time of COVID-19 has tested our values. We believe it is our values that enabled caring treatment and enduring commitment during these challenged times.

Our values:

  • Ignite. Ignite the human spirit through by health, hope and dignity.
  • Provide. Provide high quality health care.
  • Demonstrate. Demonstrate mercy and compassion for all.
  • Connect. Connect the individual to the Greater Cincinnati/Tristate community through case management.
  • Serve. Serve, collaborate and educate within our internal and external communities.

We started to hear about the virus called COVID-19 about one year ago. We have learned about other similar viruses over the years – and many of us assumed this would be treatable and not widespread. We were very wrong.

Scientists speculated this one might be different. As time passed, we learned about the necessity of masks, hand-washing, social distancing and staying home. Yet at the place that I call my work home, working remotely wasn’t an option – for me or our staff.

We treat people experiencing homelessness who are ill and have no other place to recover. Our team is comprised of health care workers and individuals who come into close contact with our clients. Our clients already suffer from acute, and often multiple, ailments, making COVID-19 an even greater danger.

Along with our physician, Dr. Bob Donovan, we elevated our safety/hygiene measures in place, most notably, information for staff and clients about staying safe in and out of the center (no touching, shaking of hands, frequently washing hands, maintaining distance from each other, etc.). 

Our clients only leave the facility for approved, essential medical appointments. Our volunteers are an important part of our team and have the option to pass on any scheduled visits in the event they are uncomfortable.

 We continue to accept and be thankful for meals from volunteers.

We masked up and continued to care. We have remained in full operation and have continued to treat our current clients.

While the center is most known for the health care treatment we provide, we also bridge our clients to more permanent housing, support job searches, provide clothing and goods and offer an entry back to the outside world.

Like you, our clients now have more limited options, and my team has been creative and committed to making a positive bridge possible.

Yes, there has been an instance COVID-19, and it was contained. In the nearly one year since COVID-19 was named, we have had only one client become ill and they were quickly moved to the hospital. They did recover. We have had two instances of staff COVID-19, and they, too, were sent home to rest and recover.

Gladly, we have completed the vaccine series for staff and clients.

I am certain that there have been times that my team would have preferred to remain in the warmth and isolation of their own homes, but they pressed on – doing what it is that we do to care for ill people without a place to call home. Our team is well aware that people experiencing homelessness have very few options.

The days when one may have stayed with a loved one to recover and recuperate are behind us, at least for now. The Center for Respite Care continues to offer options from those who need it most. And for us it is about the health of the community that is the home to us all.

Thank you to Cincinnati for providing and supporting a place that cares for our neighbors and friends.

Laurie Nelson is CEO of the  Center for Respite Care in Over-the-Rhine, which serves adults  with acute medical issues experiencing homelessness.

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