I call it engineered chaos with an essential outcome and a timeline that had to be completed before it begins. The outcome is to “flatten the curve” and provide a space for healing and recovery for the homeless, those who have no home to go to safely and are covid positive. They do not need to be hospitalized but do need to be sequestered.
It seemed like forever to find a facility for the Chittenden Recovery Center. We prepared a place for 150 people and in the end, after forever, the Holiday Inn in South Burlington opened wide its doors so that in a matter of days those doors would be shuttered tightly for the safety of the ones inside. The construction started to carve out cold (clean) spaces, warm (exposed) spaces and hot (covid viral) spaces. Walls of plastic with zippered closures were put into place. Plexiglas closures for an intake area were assembled. Cameras were mounted for security. The Vermont Energy Efficiency Coop reviewed and made recommendations for the ventilation system. Where were the safest spaces to address air circulation and reduction of germs instead of spreading them?
The State of Vermont provided personal protection equipment. Face masks, face shields, respirators, Tyvek coveralls, gloves, and gloves and gloves are the essential coverings and protection for staff. Strict procedures, training and fitting ensure the integrity of the equipment. The final visual effect is that of an astronaut stepping into the unknown.
Brian Pine (Director) and Liz Curry (Operations Manager) knit together a team. It was a human resource challenge in the extreme, interviewing, checking references, doing background checks, filling out reams of forms, scheduling and continual training all in a matter of two weeks and all done simultaneously. And, the team is exceptional. Some have medical backgrounds. Some have social work experience. Some knew the insides of shelters. We even have an epidemiologist among us. They are thoughtful, mission minded and concerned for those who are ill.
The partnerships in this effort are not unknown to each other and have taken on different and varied roles. The Agency of Human Resources, CVOEO, UVM Medical Center, Community Health Center of Burlington, the City of South Burlington with its services and the City of Burlington with its resources are bound together. We develop policies and practices. We bring our best wisdom to thorny issues that crop up at every turn. Each has a different skill and focus to offer and none can do it without the other.
Those healing at the Recovery Center are able to recover and shelter in peace knowing that outside their rooms others are at the ready to wait and watch with them as their days turn into weeks and the weeks bring needed strength and wellness. Still it is messy and scary and uncertain.
Albert Camus in The Plague said, “I have no idea what's awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.” And they are.