Staff Spotlight: Coordinating Shelter During a Pandemic
If anyone ever needed a reminder of how important it is to provide a hypothermia shelter for the homeless, the recent stretch of winter weather has provided it.
As the temperatures plummet below freezing and some combination of snow, sleet and rain falls from the sky, dozens of individuals and families can rest easier knowing that LifeStyles’ Safe Nights program offers them an opportunity to find warmth, rest and nourishment.
Maria Scott is LifeStyles of Maryland’s Shelter Supervisor, and her job is to coordinate this massive undertaking that has been made more complex by the many restrictions we face during this pandemic.
“Our primary focus is to provide a safe environment for those who come to us for help,” she said. “We utilize whatever resources we have available to give them a safe place to be and solid ground under their feet while they navigate whatever is going on in their lives.”
Each night, Safe Nights houses between 35 and 50 men, women and children during the winter months. The program partners with local churches that open their doors for a week at a time, sometimes longer. Cots are prepared and meals are served.
This year, because social distancing requirements limit the number of people who can be housed in the churches, LifeStyles is also using a local motel to house additional clients. The motel has been particularly useful for families with children. Boys and girls can use the motel’s wi-fi to access their school’s online learning program.
“We do a lot of coordination and facilitation with our churches and motel staff,” she said. “Sometimes there are challenges, and we do the best we can to communicate and be transparent. We do everything possible to make it a safe place for everyone.”
Prior to joining LifeStyles in March 2019, Maria worked with the Southern Maryland Continuum of Care, a coalition dedicated to ending homelessness in Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties. Through her work there, she got to know the team at LifeStyles. When the opportunity arose to become LifeStyles’ Shelter Supervisor, she was ready to get to work.
“Maria’s compassion and her determination to make a difference in the lives of people no matter what it takes is what makes her a perfect asset for LifeStyles,” Executive Director Sandy Washington said.
The realities of homelessness rarely lend themselves to easy solutions, and the pandemic has made it even more complex. LifeStyles and our clients are so fortunate to have dedicated, hard-working individuals like Maria working to help those who need it most and to keep them safe and warm throughout the winter.
If you are homeless and in need of shelter — or if you know someone who is — we encourage you to call us 24/7 at 1-866-293-0623