Emergency Homeless Shelters During COVID-19: Why Collaboration Is Key

Disaster Relief & Emergency Services

Guest Authored by Ben Miranda, Director of Operational Impact & Business Development at Endeavors

When COVID-19 hit, nonprofits in El Paso, TX decided to work together to create change.

When it came to serving homeless populations, the coronavirus pandemic changed everything.

Take El Paso, for example. Our beautiful city has a robust network of nonprofit organizations dedicated to fighting homelessness and helping people get back on their feet. But as stay at home orders began, the situation rapidly changed.

For a long time, El Paso has serviced people experiencing homelessness through specialized shelters— some help families and women, while others serve Veterans or only men.

When COVID-19 started, we had a lot of people who needed help, and they needed help quickly. And we had no option but to change the way we did things.

Collaboration is Key in El Paso

We all recognized that one organization could not do it by themselves. We were forced to collaborate. While there were a lot of great organizations providing great resources to our homeless populations, we all had to come together and really focus our efforts, energy, and resources.

We all acknowledged, “I know you concentrate on this population, but all of us have to collaborate to make sure we are taking care of our homeless population.”

For us in El Paso, the solution was creating two emergency shelters that facilitate collaboration among support organizations.

Endeavors, The Opportunity Center for the Homeless, the City of El Paso, the County of El Paso, the Office of Emergency Management, the Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, El Paso Coalition for the Homeless, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger, the Paso Del Norte Community Foundation, and United Way collaborated to open up two emergency centers in El Paso: The Delta Welcome Center and The Delta Haven.

One Unified Welcome Center

We are particularly proud of The Delta Welcome Center, which opened on April 17. This intake facility helps create a single point of entry for our homelessness support network.

Delta Welcome Center El Paso TX

When someone comes into the Welcome Center, they go through the intake process, are assigned a case manager, and stay there for no more than 6 days. During that time, we collaborate with other shelters to see where we can place them. If they need rehab, we try and find a rehab place. If they need rapid rehousing, we connect them to rapid rehousing.

The two centers had received on average 120 residents per night after almost two weeks since their opening!

We’ve been so pleased by the success of this process! We’ve served over 800 homeless individuals between both shelters, and we have had extremely minimal COVID-19 cases. We focus so much on hyper sanitation and making sure people are wearing all the safety mechanisms— wearing your mask, cleaning your hands, disinfecting everything we’ve touched

El Paso COVID19 shelter

A Success Story

On the very first day The Delta Welcome Center opened, we met Jenna and her family. Over the next several months, they would grow to become some of our most cherished friends. After Jenna and her family moved out of the shelter to begin their new life.

A few months after the Welcome Center opened, we received an incredible letter from Jenna. Here is a portion of that letter we received:

“Everyone treated us like we mattered. They opened their arms to us like family. I saw the joy come back into my children, and I began to feel hopeful. It made me decide something new: if strangers are willing to fight this hard for me, then I can fight this hard for myself. My will to go on was back and stronger than ever. I decided that if these strangers could have so much faith in me, then I would at the very least show my thanks to them by being successful in everything I do.

My last day there, they gave me flowers in a pot that they all signed. They said they know that very soon I would have my own place to grow them. Today, about 2 months later, I drove back to the Delta Center to let them know that I have been keeping that promise. I have a full-time job for the first time in 11 years. I have a 2 bedroom apartment that is a home for my family for the first time in almost 3 years. My children are all attending school.

Because of the kind hearts and determination of the Delta Center staff to help us to accomplish something better for ourselves and our families, I can for the first time in my 34 years of life say that I am proud to be me.

I am proud to share my story so that the world knows the incredible efforts that the staff of the Delta Welcome Center is doing to change one family’s life at a time, even during a pandemic.”

Moving Forward

Because of our efforts at the Welcome Center, the City of El Paso recognized that the Welcome Center should become permanent! We’re so proud of the work our city has done to take care of its people.

We are honored and privileged to assist in providing staffing and operational support, and we are ready to serve El Paso’s homeless community. It is such a blessing to see our community come together during this crisis. I am proud to be an El Pasoan and proud of Endeavors’ efforts.

Ben Miranda

About Benjamin Miranda
Benjamin Miranda, an El Pasoan, is the Endeavors Director of Operational Impact & Business Development based in El Paso, Texas. Additionally, he leads outreach efforts in support of the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors.

About Endeavors
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.

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