A Place To Call Home & Find Hope
During COVID-19 Pandemic
As our world continues to be impacted by COVID-19, there’s one thing that has and will remain the same: Abby’s House is committed to fulfilling our mission of providing shelter and affordable housing, as well as advocacy and support services to homeless, battered, and low-income women, with and without children. The women who rely on the services that Abby’s House provides have been impacted by the loss of a job or reduction in hours, experienced social isolation and lack of available support due to closed services, are worried about their risk of contracting the virus, and have felt uncertain about the future. While there is light at the end of the tunnel as the vaccine continues to be distributed, what continues to give the women of Abby’s House hope is the unwavering support and commitment of this community to ensure that our doors remain open throughout this pandemic and beyond.
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 has 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!
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.
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 Jean Anger () 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 follow all social distancing guidelines that are in alignment with our safety protocol. 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.