Dr. Jeffrey Norris and triage nurse Mary Jo Scarpitti are taking it to the streets. As two leading health providers at Father Joe’s Villages, they are on the front lines of caring for thousands of homeless San Diegans during the COVID-19 pandemic and are stepping up their efforts with medical services and assessments being brought directly to those with no place to call home.
“We have a huge population that is high risk and has a lot of underlying conditions,” Scarpitti said. “Helping our population is helping the larger community as a whole. We have an amazing team here and it is great to see everybody coming together to help those in need. We are trying to get people seen and get their needs met while at the same time keeping our staff safe.”
Their efforts are being boosted by a $60,000 donation from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund for health care, shelter, food and more. The Community Response Fund – which has received donations large and small from thousands of individuals, businesses and donor-advised fund – has granted more than $7 million to date to more than 60 nonprofits aiding those impacted by the pandemic.
The giving underscores how U.S. community foundations are moving decisively to help those in need during the COVID-19 crisis, which have rallied to mobilize more than $700 million to date. While community foundations have a long history of supporting others during times of crisis and disaster, the initial response to COVID-19 is unprecedented in its size and scope. As a result, community foundations are helping fill a critical void as individuals and businesses nationwide await support from government and other sources.
Healthcare professionals with Father Joe’s Villages Street Health program, equipped with laptops, medication and personal protective equipment, are providing critical medical care, screening and assessments at the San Diego Convention Center. “If our homeless neighbors need primary care, we take it to them,” said Norris, who added that teams are working with the City and County of San Diego to offer and support shelter options that can provide a safe place for patients who must quarantine because of exposure to the coronavirus.
The Village Health Center at Father Joe’s Villages, meanwhile, continues to provide crucial health services ranging from primary to psychiatric care. In addition, the Village Health Center helps addresses the needs of residents of Father Joe’s Villages who screen positive for symptoms of possible COVID-19. These individuals are connected with County-funded isolation hotels while awaiting lab test results. And Father Joe’s is providing approximately 900 meals each day through its Franklin Antonio Public Lunch Program, providing shelter to some 2,000 homeless residents nightly and continuing to offer showers and laundry through the San Diego Day Center.
But there is only so much Father Joe’s can do with the resources it has; currently, there are at least 8,100 men, women and children experiencing homelessness each night in San Diego.
“We are trying to get our homeless neighbors housed and off the streets since they are especially vulnerable during the pandemic,” said Norris. “It’s a huge lift with what’s going on right now.”
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