This week, TNOYS is publishing profiles on how several member organizations are responding to COVID-19. We hope that this information sharing will assist organizations in our community as they plan strategies, allocate resources, and work to keep youth and families safe. For additional information and resources on COVID-19, please visit TNOYS’ Emergency Response Resource Center.
Covenant House Texas (CHT) offers a continuum of care for homeless youth in Houston, including mental health and substance abuse counseling, educational and vocational training, transitional and permanent living programs, street outreach and prevention, and pastoral ministry and parenting classes, in addition to providing the basic necessities of food, clothing, medical care, and safe shelter. Given the extensive services that CHT provides, their staff and leadership had to respond swiftly and deftly to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although conversations surrounding COVID-19 emergency planning began in early March, the organization’s responses ramped up considerably in the past week.
In order to maintain a safe and healthy workplace, ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff and youth, and sustain programs and operations as feasible, CHT has implemented a number of precautionary policies. CHT has “effectively eliminated or reduced as many points of contact as possible as quickly as possible to stay healthy and out of harm’s way.” CHT’s response plan includes sections on Operations, Staffing, Youth, Volunteers, Medical Clinic, Communications, Facilities, Supplies, Finance, and Development.
Since releasing its Infectious Disease Emergency Protocol, CHT has further ramped up its prevention and response measures. Major actions taken in response to the risk of COVID-19 include:
- Volunteers and all volunteer activities have been cancelled to limit campus visitors.
- Street Outreach and Youth Engagement Center (Drop-in Center) are closed until further notice.
- Youth admissions are frozen until further notice.
- The Youth Engagement Center building has been repurposed for a larger isolation area with cots if needed. There are also isolation rooms in the clinic and in the Safe Haven Emergency Shelter.
- Youth are remaining on-campus, watching movies, playing games, playing basketball, and otherwise staying active.
- Youth exhibiting symptoms will be directed immediately to the CHT clinic for assessment. During after-hours and weekends, staff will notify Baylor on-call physicians for instructions.
- If youth test positive or are at high risk for COVID-19, staff will notify EMS and follow their established protocols for possible infectious disease.
- All administrative and non-essential staff are working from home using GoToMyPC software and conference calls. CHT is operating under storm protocol, which means that essential operations staff are required to be on call in case of understaffed shifts.
- Any staff who are not feeling well, have a fever, or may have been exposed to COVID-19 are required to stay home from work. An employee who runs a fever can expect to stay home for up to two weeks, unless released by a medical doctor or a negative COVID-19 test.
- Staff who do not come to work are required to use leave time and then take unpaid time after that. Overtime pay will be approved within the identified time period of the outbreak.
- The Executive Director and Chief Program Officer receive daily morning reports on staff who have called in sick and youth who are ill in the clinic.
Please note: This list is not exhaustive, rather it is a snapshot of some of the most prominent measures taken at Covenant House Texas.
Convent House continues to stay up to date on the latest guidelines from government and health officials as it works to ensure the safety of all youth, volunteers, staff. To learn more about Covenant House and its work, please visit https://www.covenanthousetx.org/.