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Facility for homeless women is determined to stay open during COVID-19 crisis

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As we contentiously hear the message to stay in our homes, you might wonder, what about the homeless? One local organization is still running despite the challenges and risks. They say the people they serve are viewed as their family, and they're not closing the door on them, especially when they need their help more than ever.

For many Seattle women, the Elizabeth Gregory Home literally helps them survive.

"I get my mail here, I take my showers, I do my laundry, and fortunately I get to eat too, and I love that!" Tammera has been homeless for three years. She says since the first time she walked in the door here, the staff made a big impact on her life. She first sought their services after finally landing a job. "I was hired and I needed pants, so I came in and asked first person I saw and said I need black pants! So she walked with me down to the Salvation Army and got me the black pants I needed. I still have them, and they still feel good." It' s a small example of the work they do. and she walked with me down to the salvation and got me the black pants that i Needed, and I still have them-they still feel good!"

It's a small example of the work they do. And with so many other resources for the homeless currently shut down, staff here feels they're needed more than ever. "We definitely feel that pressure. We are a small agency, we’re seeing about 40 to 60 women a day," says Executive Director, Ruth Herold.

The day center at the Elizabeth Gregory Home is open Sunday-Friday. With staff still serving that amount of women, while also excercising social distancing and santiary protcols, is as taxing as you can imagine. "Theres taking temperatures, theres sanitizing continuously," says Herold.

And they're doing it all with just a skeleton crew. "At this time we've had to pretty much stop all volunteer activities," says Helene McOwen, volunteer coordinator.

But the staff is determined to keep operating as normally as they can. " Even with all the stuff that’s happening in the world, they still need a shower, they still need a meal," says program manager, Michelle Wick.

But in order to do that, it inevitably comes with considerable risks for the dedicated staff. "We definitely know that what we’re doing is on the front lines of this whole thing, but we also realize that we’re working with a population that is very vulnerable," says McOwen.

They feel strongly they can't stay home like so many of us, because the women they serve don't have that option.

"What does social distancing mean when you’re sleeping on a mat that’s not six feet apart from another person? What does that mean to somebody who doesn’t have a lot of other choices?" says Wick.

"Our clients are incredibly resilient and one of the things that's just their truth is that they face fear everyday, whether it was this crisis or not," says Herold.

As they continue to show up everyday for the women, the staff says donations are appreciated and needed now more than ever. Cleaning supplies, food, gift cards to restaurants, and paper goods are some of the things they need most now.

"I need some place to go, and here I am, and I'm very thankful for that," says Tammera.

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