As the pandemic continues to cause a make over at The Living Room, I’m looking for ways to document it in sketches. In a recent visit I was allowed inside the gate to see how the program keeps changing to meet the constantly evolving needs of a community in medical, social, and economic crisis.
In March, when they were ordered to close the doors on the day shelter with its rich offering of services, they morphed quickly into a program with a new mandate to offer food and housing, including referrals for men and women. When I spoke with them recently, their outreach program had placed 60 people in 6 weeks and the numbers of people they were serving hot meals was growing exponentially.
Not only did the services change, but the “campus” also has undergone changes. One of the first was an outdoor plumbed hand washing station.
And more recently refrigeration units were installed outside the offices. TLR now is opening a pantry program so they will be functioning like a free grocery store with the items people need to make nutritious meals at home. In this way they are responding to an anticipated increase in unemployment by the end of July and a lot more hunger in the general population.
They also have plans to convert portions of the campus to housing for women, since it doesn’t seem likely the day shelter aspect of the program is likely to return for some time.
Meanwhile the participants I knew, like Silvia here, are seen only occasionally at TLR and always masked of course.
I’m learning to read the welcoming look in their eyes on my rare visits when I run into people I know.
If you haven’t had the opportunity yet, I invite you to look at my exhibition of portrait stories of these women, titled This is My Story: Women and Homelessness, on the Santa Rosa Public Arts website.
And to learn more about The Living Room and how you could help, visit their website.