COVID-19 Update August 7, 2020
In mid-July, Siena Francis House was informed of the first confirmed positive COVID-19 test involving a client of the emergency shelter. As part of our coronavirus mitigation strategy, the following week TestNebraska and the National Guard tested 374 clients and staff on our campus for the coronavirus, with seven (7) additional persons testing positive. Six of those persons were guests in emergency shelter and one was a person experiencing homelessness, but who did not stay on our campus. The first positive client – along with the six subsequent clients who tested positive – were put into our on-campus isolation unit for a period of time determined by the Douglas County Health Department. All clients and staff were informed. Quarantine procedures for those in most direct contact with the positive individuals were also enacted, comprising two shelter spaces. The quarantine time for the persons in one of these spaces ended on Thursday, August 6. The quarantine time for persons in the second space will end on Monday, August 10.
We are pleased to report that we currently know of zero active, positive COVID-19 cases at Siena Francis House. We are also grateful that the overall number of positive cases among our clients has been as low as it has. Clearly, the virus mitigation measures our organization has undertaken since mid-March have been effective. These include increased facility cleaning and sanitizing, as well as educating our clients about the best practices of social distancing, handwashing/hand sanitizing and mask-wearing. To help reinforce these expectations, we have printed up and posted a plethora of educational materials, related to COVID-19 and these best-practices, as well as have continually verbally reminded our clients, which has been the case since the pandemic began.
Siena Francis House staff continue to do an amazing job of implementing our emergency planning procedures, while working with community partners in an effort to keep clients and staff safe. These partners include, but are not limited to: Douglas County Health Department; CHI Health; TestNebraska; the National Guard and the Visiting Nurse Association, as well as the many other non-profit organizations in our community that serve people experiencing homelessness.
As continues to be demonstrated, individuals experiencing homelessness are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, due to congregant living, which can facilitate the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, individuals who are experiencing homelessness are often older and may have underlying health conditions which make them particularly vulnerable. Siena Francis House will continue 24/7 operations to our community’s most vulnerable, and respond to the needs of those we serve.
COVID-19 Update July 24, 2020
On July 14, 2020, Siena Francis House was informed of the first confirmed positive COVID-19 test involving a client of the emergency shelter. Plans that were earlier developed to respond to such a situation were immediately enacted, including but not limited to, notice to all clients and staff, implementation of quarantine procedures for those in most direct contact with the positive individual, and shelter wide cleaning and sanitizing. Additionally, working in conjunction with the Douglas County Health Department, TestNebraska and the National Guard, campus-wide COVID-19 testing was conducted on Monday, July 20, to further screen for additional positive cases as part of our continued mitigation strategy. In all, 347 tests were administered on our site.
On July 24, 2020, the final test results were delivered to the Siena Francis House. Of all tested, five (5) additional clients previously assigned to our male emergency shelter were found positive for COVID-19; all of which are now subject to isolation protocols while staying on campus. Guests who had earlier resided in the same units as these newly-reported positive clients are subject to the same quarantine procedures that were instituted following the July 14, 2020 incident.
Siena Francis House staff continue to do an amazing job of implementing our emergency planning procedures, while working with community partners in an effort to keep clients and visitors safe.
As continues to be demonstrated, individuals experiencing homelessness are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to congregant living, which can facilitate the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, individuals who are experiencing homelessness are often older and may have underlying health conditions which make them particularly vulnerable. Siena Francis House will continue 24/7 operations to our community’s most vulnerable and respond to the needs of those we serve.
COVID-19 Update June 3, 2020
Siena Francis House recently had two shelter staff members test positive for the coronavirus. Both individuals have been quarantining at home and will not return to work until they have been symptom-free for 10 days. When we learned of these positive cases, we were in immediate contact with the Douglas County Health Department and have developed a response plan, with their guidance. The Douglas County Health Department, UNMC and CHI have all been working with Siena Francis House, over the last many weeks, to implement a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The safety of all our guests and staff have been at the forefront of our work since early March, when the threat of COVID-19 began in our community. Our staff have done an amazing job of implementing changes to address this threat, throughout our programs and our campus, for which I am especially grateful.
Rest assured, we will continue to make necessary adjustments in our efforts to keep clients and staff safe. And, we will also continue to provide updates regarding any future developments, related to COVID-19 and how it is affecting the Siena Francis House.
COVID-19 Update April 9, 2020
Dear Caring Friends,
I trust you and your loved ones are doing as well as can be expected in these uncertain times.
While the Siena Francis House has begun to encounter shortages of food, supplies and volunteers, we continue to meet the ever-evolving challenges posed by the COVID-19 virus. And, our staff continues to provide our life-saving services of emergency shelter, food and clothing to those most in need from our very own community.
Following the guidance of health and government officials, we have been diligent in educating our homeless guests about the best practices of social distancing, handwashing and hand sanitizing. We also have greatly increased facility cleaning and disinfecting – all undertaken with the goal of containing the risk of infection. Our staff and board of directors remain steadfast in our commitment to the safety and well-being of those seeking assistance.
These last many weeks have definitely been challenging, given the fact that we’ve been serving over 400 persons a night in emergency shelter. But, these are challenges we are addressing and finding answers to – in collaboration with local health professionals from our community – while offering our services to the homeless with compassion and dignity, both hallmarks of the Siena Francis House, since 1975.
If you have made a recent donation to support our services here at Siena Francis House, thank you. If not, will you please consider making such a gift right now? I would greatly appreciate it. Please click HERE to make a donation to Siena Francis House on our secure website.
Thank you for your sustained support of our mission of serving hope to the homeless, and especially during these trying times. Together, we can and will get through this.
Message From Executive Director, Linda Twomey, Regarding COVID-19
As the homeless seek shelter through this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, Siena Francis House is serving more meals and providing more shelter than even just a couple of weeks ago.
I invite you to check out this 2-minute video that outlines the measures our staff is taking to prepare both staff and guests:
Included in this video is a list of needed supplies - of which the Siena Francis House is running very low - and which we would appreciate receiving as donations. All donation items can be dropped off to the loading dock of our emergency shelter, accessible from the west side of 16th Street, just north of Nicholas Street. The dock is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays.
And, if you would like to help support our services to those experiencing homelessness, but are unable to provide these kinds of supplies, we would appreciate it if you would please consider making a monetary donation on our secure website, HERE.
Thank you for your sustained generosity to the Siena Francis House. Your support makes a real and meaningful difference to the thousands of homeless individuals we serve each year - and especially to those who are currently staying in our shelter during this challenging time.
Siena Francis House COVID-19 Preparedness Statement
Siena Francis House is aware that homelessness may place individuals at greater risk of exposure from infectious diseases, including COVID-19. We are committed to preventing and managing the spread of this virus among our guests and staff members.
Prevention & Planning
Siena Francis House is doing its best to prevent transmission of the virus by implementing the following:
• Infection control measures that include vigorous and frequent disinfection in all facilities, particularly in “high touch” areas.
• Mandatory education for staff on disease transmission, proper handwashing and use of personal protective equipment
• Trauma-informed communication with guests around prevention and procedures
• Coordination of care for guests experiencing illness
• Contingency plan for meal service
• Contingency plan for volunteer service
Response to Infection
Siena Francis House leadership has a detailed response for guests who become ill from COVID-19. The following is included in this plan:
• Identification of community partners and resources for testing and care of ill individuals
• Relocation and quarantine of ill individuals, if necessary
• Personal protective equipment for staff who may be assisting ill individuals
• Reporting of suspected or known cases as recommended by the Douglas County Health Department