Dealing with the homelessness crisis during the pandemic


People Serving People serves about 260 people per day at their Minneapolis facility, most of them children.

MINNEAPOLIS — At a time when the homelessness crisis is more apparent than ever in our greater community, the region’s largest shelter for families and children says they’ve dramatically changed how they do their work.

“I’ve been telling folks everything about how we do our work has shifted as an organization,” said Rinal Ray, the Interim Executive Director at People Serving People.

Ray added: “We’ve shifted the way we do meals, so we are delivering packaged meals to families three times a day, every day, and probably will be throughout the pandemic. We had to decrease the capacity of children that we could serve in our early education program so that we could make sure that our classrooms were safe, those kids can be safe, our teachers could be safe.”

Every day, People Serving People serves about 260 people at their Minneapolis facility, most of them children. As Ray noted, those services have changed in terms of ability to congregate for meals and other activities and as children try to do distance learning. The organization has also had to adapt to not being able to receive the help of their 6,900 regular volunteers, who would normally assist with everything from programs to meal delivery.

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“Really, we’ve gotten creative with our staffing, so teachers who were in early-ed classrooms for a while were supporting meal delivery. We’ve gotten cross-functional in how we think about our work and folks have just been pitching in where and when they can to make sure that we can do all the things we need to do and take care of our families,” Ray said.

As the pandemic continues to affect the greater community, Ray emphasized how the crisis uniquely affects those experiencing homelessness. More specifically, she asks people to consider how most families have sought refuge in their own homes these last months.

“All of our families have a private room. It’s one room, they have their own bathroom. It’s a very, very modest dorm or hotel-style situation. So If you imagine even like a family of four, they’re all in that one space together. And in that space, folks are resting, folks are learning, folks are trying to engage in housing searches or job searches, babies are crying, children are playing. There’s a whole lot going on in that one room,” she said, adding: “In the last seven months, we’ve all learned to appreciate home… and the foundation that that creates for us to do all the things that we need to do, like learn and work and rest and be with the people that we love.”

For more information on People Serving People and how you can support their work or attend their Oct. 24 virtual gala, “A Race for Stable Housing,” just go to: www.peopleservingpeople.org.




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