Irit is another very old friend. We met in 1985 in Los Angeles and though our contact has been sporadic over the years, our hearts always remained connected. I am not surprised she is doing such important and holy work.
by Irit Umani, Austin, TX
Before this new abnormal, I started my working days by opening the doors of the organization for which I work to people who are homeless. I love my work. Folks relate to Trinity Center as their community, their home without a home, their place of care and dignity. They hang out in a big hall around tables and enjoy respite time from their harsh environment.
One thing that is not possible though is distancing.
So we shut down the hall, but we kept on serving breakfast: outside, takeaway, distance kept, masks and gloves on. Across the street from where we are located are the main two shelters for people who are homeless in Austin. Distancing is not an option when a shelter is your home. The “opportunity” to secure a bed in a shelter means 20 men or women to a room with 10 bunkbeds, and a total of about 150 people at each shelter. As predicted, to nobody’s surprise, these shelters are having an outbreak of the coronavirus. One of the two shelters had to shut down completely.
So, two days ago, our staff was invited to be tested. We are negative! All of us. But for the grace of God go we.
This is Texas. We are among the states doing the lowest per capita testing in the country, but itching to re-open the economy. Can’t stand the cessation of oil fracking, I guess. Being in Texas means that when the criminal we call president will decide that we can “open America,” the governor will be fast to follow. So I am wondering, ahead of time, about my responsibility to my staff and to the people that we serve.
I know for sure that opening a hall for 70 people at any one time, to mingle close to one another for few hours each day, is NOT a decision that my conscious mind and heart can make. Will ten at a time be okay? Maybe twenty is still safe? Will we resume individual case-management? How about church on Sunday? And what about the people we serve, who will be impacted—are impacted—in big ways, by any decision that we will make?
What will guide us in our decision at that time will be compassionate hearts and wise minds. I never imagined having to make such decisions, but here I am. May I be guided by God’s grace and compassion.