Simpson’s Response to COVID-19Posted on March 26th, 2020
Due to the rapidly changing situation and continued spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota, Simpson Housing Services has implemented plans and safety measures to sustain our mission and ensure the safety of the people we serve and our staff members that work alongside them.
On March 18, Simpson staff began working from home with the exception of essential staff at the shelter and administrative office. Public access to our administration office at 2100 Pillsbury Avenue in Minneapolis has been limited.
Our advocates are connecting with families and individuals by phone and email to assess their needs and offer resources during this time of business and school closures. Our tutoring and mentoring programs are paused until further notice.
Safety at Our Shelter
The shelter is vital to our community, and we are committed to maintaining shelter operations.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Simpson began operating the emergency shelter 24 hours per day on March 17.
“When Governor Walz made the decision to close public spaces, we immediately knew we had to operate the shelter 24 hours a day. Typically, our shelter operates from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. and we didn’t want shelter guests to be forced out in the community each morning during this crisis,” says Simpson Executive Director Steve Horsfield.
Currently, we are providing 66 shelter guests a safe space and a temporary home.
Prior to the change in operating hours, Simpson shelter staff had already been implementing health recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Handwashing stations were installed to allow staff and guests to frequently wash their hands and additional cleaning measures were put in place.
The most vulnerable guests including the elderly and guests with chronic health conditions were moved to individual rooms at local hotels to best support their health and safety. After guests transitioned to hotels, bunk assignments in the shelter were adjusted to provide social distancing for the smaller group of guests staying there. Shelter staff identified several spaces that could be used for quarantine if a guest were to become symptomatic.
Following guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health and Center for Disease Control and Prevention, we continue to closely monitor the situation within our shelter and housing programs and will be making modifications as needed.
We are very thankful to the amazing Simpson staff team for their dedication and commitment to providing a safe home for the people we serve during this community crisis. With dignity and respect for the uniqueness of each person, our advocates engage with our guests, recognize personal strengths and barriers, and secure stable housing and resources.
For 38 years, Simpson Housing Services has relied on volunteers to provide meals at the shelter. In light of COVID-19, a quick decision had to be made about safely providing meals to shelter guests.
Effective on March 19, Simpson paused the program and connected with three catering partners to deliver lunch and dinner at the shelter for the next 30 days. Provision Community Restaurant in the Local Whitter neighborhood will provide lunches seven days per week and Corporate Caterers of the Twin Cities and E.T. Delectables will provide evening meals on a rotating schedule. The caterers will deliver food to the shelter, and staff will plate and distribute the meals for guests. Cereal is provided for breakfast.
Operating the shelter 24 hours per day and providing meals will add $13,000 per week to our operating budget. Faith organizations and individuals are making donations to help with these added costs. Volunteer groups who regularly prepare and serve meals at the shelter are encouraged to cover the cost of the catered meals.
Advocacy and Legislative Response
Leaders from Simpson, Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless and other Minnesota nonprofits serving the homeless convened in a virtual conference on March 26 to press legislators to immediately provide money and resources to support shelter guests amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Once we do get a case of COVID-19 in the shelter, it’s going to spread like wildfire, said Simpson’s Executive Director Steve Horsfield. The speakers also requested rental assistance for households that will desperately need the economic support. Click here to read the Star Tribune article.
Click here to read about important advocacy efforts during this legislative session.
Ways You Can Help
As we extend shelter hours and provide meals, Simpson is asking for your help to support the $13,000 weekly increase in our shelter operating budget.
Financial Gifts: If you are willing and able to support us financially, you may make a donation online: click here
Your gift will help us operate our shelter with increased hours and will provide simple and safe catered meals.
Supply Donations: Click here to see our urgent needs for all programs during the COVID 19 outbreak.
Please note that we are temporarily not accepting donations at the shelter.
Donations will only be accepted at our administrative office by appointment. We are asking that only urgent needs to be delivered, and that all other donations be held at this time. If you would like to donate items, please contact Nahrissa at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a delivery time. A staff member will pick up items from your car and you can complete the in-kind donation form online.
We thank the Simpson community for their support during this time of shared concern. We’ll get through this time together. Please stay healthy!