As we continue to shelter-in-place, Covia Community Service programs have found new ways to support their participants’ safety and well-being. For the Home Match program, staff have created new safety-informed initiatives and resource guides to support participants, sent care packages to ongoing matches, and developed digital initiatives to better reach people online.
For ongoing matches, Home Match staff have been facilitating conversations around safely sharing a home during COVID-19. “We put together a home-sharing specific questionnaire to guide productive conversations around maintaining health and safety in a shared-home, and for proactively planning for the event that a homemate becomes ill,” says Tori Shepard, Home Match Program Manager in San Francisco. “We also mediated a number of these conversations virtually, which received very positive feedback, particularly in homes where some homemates are at higher risk of severe illness.”
The Home Match team also boosted the spirits of ongoing matches by sending staff-curated care packages. These Happiness Packages consisted of fun activities that matches can participate in together as well as self-care items for relaxing while staying at home. Items included pancake mix, green tea, Rubik’s cubes, homemade soap, and puzzle books.
“We’ve received back a lot of gratitude from matches,” says Shepard. One participant wrote to say “We were truly delighted after receiving our package. In this new normal, for a couple of minutes, we felt the love of our friends and family.”
Many participants have “also noted their gratitude for each other, as shelter-in-place buddies,” Shepard notes. “One of our matches shared that she’s grateful to be sharing her home, during these uncertain times. Since she’s at higher risk for severe illness, her homemate does all the shopping to make sure they have what they need – she’s even planted a food garden. She says it’s wonderful having someone to laugh with and talk to.”
The Home Match team has also been sharing helpful information with participants and adapting their program operations. For participants who have not yet been matched, the Home Match team provided local resource guides related to food, unemployment, and mental health. Following guidelines from local health orders and the CDC, Home Match has also adapted overall program operations to safely support participants and new matches while taking in the reality of the current situation.
“We’ve transitioned to 100% virtual operations and developed new safety procedures, in adherence with shelter-in-place orders,” notes Shepard. “All our participant interactions—including appointments, home visits, outreach activities, and Living Together Agreements—are now offered by phone or video call.
“Operating remotely has also created an opportunity to focus on the program’s online tools and presence,” says Shepard, while noting that “we are taking extra care to still reach those who do not have a computer or internet access.” Part of this focus is a new Home Match website, which debuted the week of July 24th. The new website includes expanded information for interested home-sharers, as well as testimonials from ongoing matches.
“We love the new website,” notes Shepard. “It has a much more open and content-rich layout, which gives us more room to tell our story. New features like our inquiry form and staff profiles give us more avenues to get to know our prospective participants and vice versa.”
The new Home Match website is available here and is a great jumping off point to learn more about the program and how they support the community.