A Place To Call Home & Find Hope
During COVID-19 Pandemic & Beyond
As a congregate-care setting, the safety of all residents, shelter guests, staff, volunteers, and visitors remains the top priority at Abby’s House. After carefully reviewing the most up-to-date state COVID-19 guidelines, Abby’s House will begin a phased re-opening plan, following guidance set forth from both state and local Departments of Public Health (DPH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Reception staff continue to regularly disinfect the reception area, desk, countertops and doors to help prevent the spread of germs. All residents, shelter guests, staff and volunteers continue to have access to cleaning supplies and PPE, as well as receive regular tips on good hygiene practices.
In order to keep all unvaccinated individuals and vulnerable individuals as safe as possible, masks are still required for all visitors, volunteers, and vendors. Masks continue to be required in all common areas and in meetings with 3 or more individuals. In accordance with the congregate-care advisory set forth by MA DPH, all residents, shelter guests, staff, volunteers, visitors and vendors are also asked to maintain 6-ft social distancing.
When meeting with residents and guests, staff are asked to continue to wear masks and maintain 6-ft social distance. In-person 1:1 meetings with staff members, volunteers, and visitors are encouraged, while keeping safety in mind.
At this time, the only visitors allowed up onto residential floors are health care providers, such as CNA’s. Guests and visitors, other than health care providers, can visit with residents in the Multipurpose Room or the Women’s Center, with approval ahead of time.
Visitors and donors are being welcomed back for on-site visits, preferably by appointment. To schedule your onsite visit, call (508) 756-5486 and Reception staff will direct your call.
Re-opening plans for all residential areas, shelter, Women’s Center and Kitchen are being developed by staff and in accordance with with evolving advisories for congregate care settings of DPH and CDC and will be communicated in coming weeks.
Re-opening plans for all large-groups, indoor events and volunteer projects are being developed by staff and in accordance with with evolving advisories for congregate care settings of DPH and CDC and will be communicated in coming weeks.
All staff members, volunteers and interns are being asked to stay home if they feel sick, follow their health care provider’s guidance for testing, and adhere to MA DPH advisories for quarantining and when they can safely return to work. If they believe they have symptoms or believe they were exposed to COVID-19, they are asked to report their concern to their supervisor and Executive Director, Stephanie Page. If any unvaccinated staff, interns or volunteers travel out-of-state or out-of-country, MA state guidelines require a negative Covid-19 test result prior to returning to the office.
Continuing to serve our residents and guests during these unprecedented circumstances is requiring additional accommodations, new expenses, and expanded resources. Please click on the sections below to learn more about our response in each area. If you feel moved to help, please consider making a donation by clicking here.
The Abby’s House shelter remains open from 5:30 p.m. – 8 a.m., 7-days a week and has even extended hours Monday through Friday and weekend mornings to allow shelter guests to remain safe “at home” in shelter during the day. A dedicated group of overnight volunteers, along with increased staff, continue to fill the gaps in coverage so that women can stay inside as much as possible to remain safe from the virus. Staff, food, and cleaning expenses have increased to ensure the overall safety and continued well-being of our guests.
Our Property Management team has been hard at work ensuring the safety of all residents in our three properties of supportive housing and shelter. Professional cleaning is performed seven days a week in all common areas, and all properties remain stocked with Clorox wipes, paper towels and hand soap in every kitchen and bathroom. Every resident and guest has received masks, donated by several individuals and organizations, and are asked to wear them when going into any common area.
In an effort to help residents maintain social distancing, residential kitchens have limited users at one time to ensure safety. Outside seating areas have designated markings to show residents where they can sit while still safely practicing social distancing.
In the event that a resident or guest does test positive for the virus, Housing and Advocacy staff are notified immediately and begin working with the individual to move her to a safe, temporary, offsite location where they can quarantine. Professional cleaning staff are immediately called in and do a deep clean of all common areas, elevator, as well as a deep clean of the resident’s floor.
We continue to lease any available units quickly, as the need for safe, affordable housing is greater now more than ever. All interviews are being conducted over the phone and in-person with social distancing protocol in place, and are by appointment only.
Our Advocates are hard at work each day to ensure the safety of both residents and shelter guests, and are working to remove any barriers the women may be facing to make sure their needs continue to be met, including accessing technology, updating benefits, and applying for needed services. For those facing increased financial difficulties, advocates are assisting women through the Annette Rafferty Survive to Thrive (ARST) fund as well as partnering with community resources to help cover rent, transportation, and medical expenses. The ability to stay connected through fun and informative socially-distanced Women’s Center activities and house meetings has helped keep women emotionally healthy and happy! Advocates are also providing connection by leaving special surprises in resident mailboxes, and a letter is sent each week to keep everyone informed about updates on the Coronavirus and available resources.
Keeping all residents, shelter guests, staff and volunteers safe and free from COVID-19 remains our top priority. Advocacy staff regularly educate women on how to prevent contracting the virus and about free local testing, and our partners at the Family Health Center have provided free testing onsite at Abby’s House on 3 occasions. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve had a total of 13 positive cases at Abby’s House, mostly since cases surged across the State beginning in late November. To date, we are incredibly grateful that each woman has recovered from the virus.
Each time there was a positive case, Advocacy staff worked with the individual using a trauma-informed approach to help answer any questions and prepare her in moving to a safe location to follow isolation requirements. The advocacy staff has provided excellent support to all residents during a time of anxiety and need related to the surge in the virus. Both during regular work hours and on-call they have been available to provide resources and emotional support to the residents in isolation. This has included arranging hot meals and food, shopping for essentials, and picking up needed medication. Individuals who may have had close contact with anyone who tested positive were immediately notified, and a professional cleaning company was immediately called to perform a deep clean of all common areas, elevator, and entryway.
On January 22nd, the City of Worcester’s Health and Human Services Department, led by Commissioner Dr. Mattie Castiel, and UMASS Medical students vaccinated 96 total residents and guests, as well as staff and volunteers that support them onsite at Abby’s House. Additional doses were available that day, and were used by other individuals and agencies in the state’s Phase One rollout plan, including LIFT, Dismas House, Southeast Asian Coalition and Thursday Café to ensure that no available dose went to waste. The second dose was administered at Abby’s House on February 19th to all those who took part in the vaccine clinic on January 22. We’re happy to report that 100% of individuals who received the first dose of the vaccine at Abby’s House received their second dose as well!
Any residents and shelter guests who are experiencing symptoms or had possible exposure to COVID-19 are asked to contact their healthcare provider and report their concern to Advocacy & Residential Services Manager, Meghan McLeod or Shelter Manager, Parlee Jones, respectively.
An easy way to help the women and children of Abby’s House is to donate an item on our needs list or Amazon Wishlist. Remember to use Amazon Smile and select “Abby Kelley Foster House, Inc.” if purchasing through Amazon. To ensure the safety of both donors and staff, we’ve updated our policies and procedures around in-kind donations. Please read below for more details.
At this time we are only able to accept brand-new items. The best method for in-kind donations is to order items online and have them sent directly to Abby’s House (52 High Street, Worcester, MA 01609). If you plan to drop off items in-person, please contact Kathleen Suchenski () to schedule a drop off time. Once a time has been scheduled and you arrive to drop off your donation, please bring the item(s) inside the doors and place it on the cart, located to the right of the lobby. Reception staff will be there to welcome you and assist you with any questions. To ensure everyone’s safety, please remember to wear a mask and keep a 6′ distance between you and others. Thank you for looking out for one another!
The Abby’s House Thrift Shop is open with updated store hours and donation policies. Extensive safety protocol has been established in the Thrift Shop to protect the health and safety of the public, staff and volunteers. The Thrift Shop is and continues to be an important resource for the community, and provides 11% of our operating budget, which supports the overall mission of Abby’s House.
Over 40 dedicated volunteers have remained or returned to help support the mission of Abby’s House and those we serve. We understand that each volunteer’s circumstances are different, and we appreciate the volunteers who can continue to provide help. While here, each volunteer, along with staff, is asked to wear a mask and adhere to social distancing. In order to help keep everyone safe, all volunteers and staff must follow all state advisories, including advisories related to travel and testing. This applies to all of our residents and shelter guests as well. To learn more or to become a volunteer, visit our volunteer page.