Providing for the Unexpected

Providing for the Unexpected

Lee House residents

It’s a close-knit community at Lee House, an affordable housing apartment building that’s home to 25 seniors in Elizabethtown, New York. Residents often check to ensure that neighbors make it to their doctors appointments.

Residents went out of their way to keep each other healthy when the coronavirus began to spread in their state. The Housing Assistance Program of Essex County (HAPEC), which operates the building, relied on a $25,000 grant from NeighborWorks America’s Critical Relief Fund to buy personal protective equipment and undertake extra cleaning throughout the facilities. The funding was made possible through the Wells Fargo Foundation, which pledged to keep people housed through the pandemic economic downturn.

Lee House cleaning crew

Despite the precautions, bad news came in October 2020, when ten Lee House residents tested positive for COVID-19, sending three to the hospital and forcing all other residents to quarantine in the building. The property manager, cleaning crew and maintenance team had to isolate for two weeks, too, but the property still needed to be properly disinfected.

A deep cleaning company, specializing in emergency response was called in.

“They were trying their best to make us feel safe,” resident Rhoda Bailey said. “I think they went from the top of the walls to the bottom of the walls. The desks. The chairs. You name it, they cleaned it.”

But hiring a costly specialty crew was not in HAPEC’s pre-approved annual budget, and HAPEC Executive Director Bruce Misarski said the funding from NeighborWorks and Wells Fargo Foundation was critical.

“Having that little bit of financial cushion gave us the ability to respond quickly to the needs,” Misarski said.

The plan worked. By early 2021, the virus was under control at Lee House. Those who had contracted COVID-19 had recovered.

“Life has returned to some semblance of normal,” Misarski said. “Now we’re working on new things, such as internet connectivity, so people can participate in telemedicine appointments and visit online with their loved ones.”

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