Hope’s Door May Face Temporary Closure After COVID Outbreak

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A social services agency that helps domestic abuse victims has been struggling to keep its shelter open after all of the facility’s full-time employees recently tested positive for COVID-19.

The Hawthorne-based Hope’s Door has been on the verge of having to send the people who have been housed in the shelter to a hotel, said its Executive Director CarlLa Horton. However, with volunteers, just enough part-timers and administrators pitching in to work evenings and the overnight shifts, Hope’s Door has been able to avoid taking that drastic step.

“We’re not even a day at a time, we’re a shift at a time,” Horton said Monday morning. “So at this point, if nothing else happens, we’re covered through Wednesday morning at eight o’clock, and then we start the whole thing over again. We’re just kind of on a rolling cycle of keeping things together.”

Troubles started last week when three of the shelter’s four full-time employees who work day shifts tested positive for COVID-19. Shortly after, the fourth full-timer began experiencing symptoms and needed to go home.

Hope’s Door has a roster of 11 part-timers that it calls that take either the 6 to 11 p.m. or 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. shifts. However, all but one of the part-timers have full-time jobs and are typically only available nights and weekends, Horton said. To make matters worse, a few of the part-timers started having symptoms, she said.

As of Monday, one of the four full-timers who tested positive had been cleared to return to work.

“It’s really been, as it’s been for so many organizations, (with) the kind of work we do it’s just been a struggle,” she said.

As Horton returned from an aborted vacation last week, the agency’s chief financial officer worked an 11-hour shift overnight, she said. Horton has penciled herself in to be on duty for the overnight Tuesday-into-Wednesday morning shift. The director of outreach and engagement has also been working at the shelter.

Staff had already been stretched thin because while the organization’s funding allows for five full-timers, one of those positions has been vacant. Horton called it “a perfect storm.”

“In the end, because the hotel was our backup plan if we could not provide staffing,” Horton said. “We have requirements for our housing that requires certain staffing situations and if we had not been able to do that then putting people in the hotel was the last, last effort.”

Hope’s Door’s shelter can accommodate up to 19 people at one time.

Horton said the organization is hoping that within the week, they can return to full staffing – or close to it. The latest guidelines now allow asymptomatic people to return after five days in isolation. 

“We have very dedicated staff and they stepped up,” Horton said. “I don’t know how long we can do this before we fall over in a heap.”

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