In many ways, we are in uncharted territory. Even the foremost experts in infectious disease control and prevention can’t tell us where the COVID-19 pandemic is heading, and when it will cease to plague our communities. Many cities, including those in metro Detroit, are on necessary lock-down. And the longer the lock-down, the more it becomes obvious that life as we know it – especially in terms of convenience, comfort, predictability and social bonding – has changed forever. As far as I know, anxiety, fear and panic have not been this high in recent history.

And every day, we face the immeasurable pain of losing friends, partners, neighbors and loved ones. Just like that. You talk with them today on the phone and tomorrow you hear they are gone, leaving behind vacuums that are too big to fill. That’s so sad.

I don’t remember the last time I had a good sleep in the last four weeks. Why should I? There are over 2200 disadvantaged persons relying on us each day for services ranging from hot meals and emergency shelter to child tutoring and substance abuse detox and treatment. They are more vulnerable in a crisis time like this, and we have to make sure their health and well-being are protected and promoted, following relevant guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state and city officials.

Thus, apart from pre-entry testing for COVID-19 symptoms like fever, promotion of frequent hand-washing, and cessation of serving food in common areas, we have significantly increased the number of times we sanitize common areas like bathrooms, dorms, hallways, libraries, TV lounge, chapels and dining room.

Besides, the required social distancing (like clients staying 6-feet from each other) has created a situation where each of our locations can only serve about a third of its normal capacity. So, new facilities that meet the intricate needs of the moment have become necessary. Thankfully, we have opened two such facilities with the help of the City of Detroit, and are currently in talks with the relevant Wayne County agency to open another one for clients undergoing treatment.

Obviously, all that requires more resources – food, personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitary items, etc. Our staff of about 300 – and some of them have pre-existing conditions that limit their involvement in the COVID-19 response – are already stretched too thin. Overtime pay is now high, and skill-based group volunteers are no longer an option.

Too many challenges, But we are not giving up. And we are not slowing down either.

A major reason is this: we’ve got friends, faithful friends. Or as superstars, Lennon and Maisy, sang, “I’ve got you, and you’ve got me.” We’ve got metro Detroit and metro Detroit’s got us. 

We continue to receive lots of calls, text messages and emails from individuals and organizations offering one form of help or another. Chefs. Foundation executives. Business leaders. Community advocates. Young influencers. Retirees. Media and sports personalities. They all solidarize with our intense efforts to make sure homeless, hungry and hurting individuals and families get as much support and upliftment as possible. That has been so encouraging – to put it mildly. And we are indeed grateful.

Recall that the Detroit community also gave us a similar level of financial and moral support after 9/11 and during the Great Recession, enabling us to give much-needed help and hope to those who needed them most.

And as we exercise the hope that this devastating COVID-19 pandemic ends in no distant time, we are not oblivious of how the resultant negative economic impact could precipitate a big rise in the number of people and families in need of shelter, food, clothes and shoes, substance abuse treatment and job readiness programs. We are already looking ahead and re-positioning ourselves to meet those needs, with the help of our faithful friends.

Hopefully, I will get the opportunity to share our plans with you in the coming weeks.

Till then, thank you so much, and please keep safe and keep well. Let’s overcome COVID-19 together.

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