The Crisis of Homeless Seniors and COVID-19

by | Mar 30, 2020 | Billie's Blog, Conference Newsletter

The Crisis of Homeless Seniors 

By Carolyn Blaney-Arndt, Children, & Poverty Task Force DSCUMC

During this time of the pandemic, we are doing our best to shelter at home, trying to stop the spread of Covid-19. But what happens if you are a homeless senior in Phoenix?

Wendy Johnson, Executive Director at Justa Center, has been busy making significant changes to how they serve their senior guests during the pandemic. Justa is now serving 150 homeless seniors a day, double the number they have previously served. There are no longer senior centers open, libraries are closed, and malls aren’t an option for a homeless senior to sit inside — no safe place to rest. Fast food and coffee shops have closed — imagine walking, searching for a restroom! What would these vulnerable seniors do without Justa Center?

Last week Justa Center quickly moved all seating outside to be able to continue to provide care while reducing possible virus transmission. A to Z Rentals kindly donated the rental of exterior space heaters for chilly mornings, eight pop-up awnings, and a 5′ grill Justa can use for weekend food preparation. Phoenix Tool Bank quickly donated the rental of 150 plastic stackable chairs for outside. Justa Center is now the only place providing hot weekday meals. While Area Agency on Aging and Meals on Wheels are helping with hot meals during the week, there would be no weekend meals for the seniors without Justa doing the cooking. The grill is ready to go Saturdays and Sundays cooking outdoors whatever they get donated for 150 seniors — chicken or burgers would be amazing.

Justa Center is hoping a recent grant application will help them provide an on-site part-time nurse to do COVID-19 assessments. Justa Center wants to be open again until 3:00 PM as there is nowhere else for seniors to sit down, let alone sit and eat.

So how can we all help?   

Donate through Just One Meal. Justa Center can get the best deals buying wholesale the food or ingredient they need.

Currently, Justa is keen for plastic grocery bags, stable shelf groceries, canned foods, and protein for the 125 bags of groceries that go out to their seniors with check-in each week.

Donate pre-made sack lunches — each lunch bag contains one peanut butter and jam sandwich, one meat and cheese sandwich, one bag of chips, one piece of fruit, and a juice box.

Consider how your group might best safely make this sack lunch donation with no large group gatherings.

Donations of sugar, coffee creamer, hand/baby wipes, bleach, and laundry detergent are very much appreciated.

Write cards to these seniors. Your warm wishes and thoughts can touch those who are feeling especially isolated at this time, letting them know that someone is thinking about them. World Health Organization says the virus does not survive on letters or cards, so they are safe to send. Mail your completed card to Justa Center, 1001 W Jefferson Street, Phoenix, 85007 write “Guest” on the back of the card, and they will share them with seniors to brighten their day. Enclosing your child’s art or own signature would be lovely.

Justa Center accepts deliveries between 8:00 AM and 1:00 PM only. Justa Center is currently open for limited hours. The building is closed to guests and volunteers. Pull your car up to the drop-off zone by the Mobile Mini Storage unit on 10th Ave., call them, and they will come out to your car to do the unloading.

Questions, or to arrange delivery of your donation, please call Rudy at 602-783-2175 or Wendy at 602-499-1555. They are on-site working every single day.

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Author: Billie K. Fidlin

Billie K. Fidlin is the Director of Outreach & Justice for the Desert Southwest Conference. She is a graduate of Western Michigan University and attended Claremont School of Theology for religious studies. Ms. Fidlin currently serves as the President of the Arizona Faith Network in her second term. She is President & Founder of Whisper n Thunder Inc., and sits on various boards including the Justa Center and the Phoenix Police Department's Faith Advisory Council. Her awards include the UM Foundation for Evangelism 2004 Distinguished Evangelist; 2016 Church Women United / United Nations Human Rights Award; 2018 Servant Leader Award AZ Faith Network; 2022 Southern Poverty Law Center Certificate of Recognition; and 2022-23 Class of Who's Who in America.
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