Most folks realize the importance of frequently washing their hands to help prevent the spread of disease, especially as a precaution against COVID-19. However, what happens when you don’t have access to clean water or soap?
“People who are experiencing homelessness are very vulnerable to this pandemic. There is almost no place where they can wash their hands or use the toilets and they don’t have the means to buy hand sanitizers or wipes,” explains Elaine Ward, executive director of Franciscan Ministries, a local non-profit with the mission of helping the homeless and those living in poverty.
With collaboration from the City of Cincinnati, Franciscan Ministries’ program - Tamar's Center - continues to be a lifeline for those who are living on the streets. Tamar's worked with the Greater Cincinnati Water Works to install an outside hand-washing station, making this necessity more convenient for those in need.
“While the lockdown caused us to serve in new ways, we continue to live out our mission of assisting some of the most vulnerable populations – those who are living on the street, who suffer from addiction or who are trafficked for sex or are at risk of being trafficked,” explains Estelle McNair, director of Tamar’s Center. The center, which is a day shelter and an entry point for help, was temporarily closed due to the pandemic. However, clients came daily to Tamar’s Center to get a bag of food and supplies.
“The pandemic has caused added hardship for many of our clients,” states McNair. “We have seen increases in the physical risk our clients are facing. Many women are being raped or assaulted, so we assist them with obtaining medical care or trying to find safe housing.”
To facilitate tele-health and mental health assistance, Tamar’s Center staff is also creating a private area with computer and Internet so clients can more easily access medical and mental health providers. McNair adds, “For many of those we serve just knowing that they have a place where they can contact their doctor or counselor helps alleviate much stress. Again, this is a new and different service we are providing as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”