Thanks to the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund, Housing Action Illinois subgranted $20,000 to Lazarus House. These funds support the agency’s work providing interim housing and emergency shelter, as well as rental, mortgage, and utility assistance.
Guests of Lazarus House’s emergency shelter normally live in a communal environment, bunking together, cycling through a buffet line, eating together, and sharing bathroom facilities — conditions the organization says worked well for the people they serve.
The COVID-19 pandemic complicated that. The living style at Lazarus House did not comply with guidelines of social distancing because they prevented residents from maintaining six feet of space.
The organization moved emergency shelter guests to individual hotel rooms, each with their own bathroom, to help the guests stay safe during the public health crisis. Staff now prepare and package meals and deliver them to the hotels daily. With clients offsite, Lazarus House has also had to get creative to provide case management. At the same time, the organization is working with reduced staffing to minimize the virus’s spread.
Alice, a single mother of two, came to Lazarus House after fleeing an abusive relationship. Although COVID-19 represented additional challenges in an already difficult situation, Executive Director Leanne Deister-Goodwin says Alice is rising to meet them. “Every time I see her she tells me how thankful she is to Lazarus House, and specifically to our donors, for making this fresh start possible for her as she stays safe and healthy while navigating a very new life,” Deister-Goodwin said in an email.
In recent weeks staff have also seen an increase in calls for help with rent and utility payments due to pandemic-related job losses. The organization warns that the funding it has budgeted for its Homeless Prevention Program is insufficient to keep up with the increase in demand. Lazarus House also predicts it will struggle to afford supplies and staffing, as well as costs associated with its food delivery services.
Housing Action Illinois is helping cover these costs with two $10,000 subgrants—one for May to June, and the second for July to August—thanks to the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund. With these funds, Lazarus House hopes to serve 45 people in Kane County, where it operates.
So far, Lazarus House reports it has connected 38 households with interim housing and emergency shelter, representing 1,695 nights of shelter provided from May 1 to June 15. Eleven households have benefited from short-term rental or mortgage assistance, with 22 applications for assistance filed. In addition, Lazarus House has helped one household with utility assistance.
“The care that we do is never cancelled. We’re just learning a very new way to do it,” Deister-Goodwin said in a video message.