The summer is in full-swing here in Flagstaff. With temperatures rising to record highs, the forests surrounding our town are drying out and we are all prepping emergency responses with the full forest closures that took effect as of June 23rd.
It is well-known that the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Securities Act (the CARES Act) is coming through in big and necessary ways with direct financial relief for FlagShelter and so many other nonprofits around the country. What is less well-known is that the CARES Act also includes significant charitable giving benefits and tax relief with the new charitable income tax deduction.
In the midst of responding to crisis each day, the leadership of Flagstaff Shelter Services is constantly evaluating the effectiveness of our response to the needs of our community.
Our work is unpredictable for so many reasons, but unpredictability becomes extremely consequential when it comes to needing to pay our employees for their hard days worked in risky environments, or when it comes to the choice of whether or not we can afford to keep 250 high-risk people sheltered and safe during a pandemic. As you can read in the article, Flagstaff shelter waits for federal relief funds to house COVID-free population, published yesterday by the AZ Daily Sun, we have been awaiting the release of COVID-related funding for too long at this point.
Amidst rising numbers of cases across Arizona, it is imperative that we continue to be able to give safe and separate shelter to those who have nowhere else to go. But these hotels and the restructuring of our operations, though extremely effective, has had an unimaginable financial strain on this agency.
We know that racial inequity is a dominant and shameful narrative that permeates all areas of American life – and social and housing services agencies are not exempt from this. By transforming the way we care for diverse individuals experiencing homelessness, Flagstaff Shelter Services aims to provide services that are effective, efficient, and equitable.
In our latest round of testing for COVID-19 for our clients and staff, the numbers of positive tests had reduced SIGNIFICANTLY from the previous round. This means that we are on the right track- that providing hotel rooms and finding permanent housing for our neighbors experiencing homelessness to quarantine themselves is the best and most immediate way for us to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
Life looks different for so many around the world as we change and evolve in response to COVID-19. For Flagstaff Shelter Services, our primary concern has been to reduce the number of people sleeping in our group shelter – which has a newly expanded capacity of 170 – down to a number that allows us to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing as much as a group-shelter possibly can. So we started renting blocks of rooms at local hotels, and transitioned all of our senior citizens and medically vulnerable clients to their own individual rooms.