How recenter Stayed Nearly Covid-Free

Covid Infections Held to 1.4% of recenter Residents

At Recenter, we have 200 full-time residents who are recovering from the diseases of alcohol and drug abuse. Since Covid arrived in Texas we have hosted 539 people in our facility although only 200 reside with us at a time.  People in recovery come into our facility, regain control of their lives and move on.

In the beginning, we were just becoming aware of what Covid-19 was and what our prospects might be.  Our residents live close together, in ten-person, two-person, and one-person living quarters.   We share a single dining facility.  Some of our people have disabilities that could make them more susceptible.  I could see Covid spreading through our facility and infecting many residents and staff.

Traditionally we welcomed people in recovery to attend one of our 40 weekly AA meetings.  We invited everyone, strangers as well as residents, to discuss their progress in overcoming their alcohol and drug diseases.  We often fed the homeless if we had food leftover from our normal meals.

People in recovery often rely on a higher power to help them recover from their abusive diseases.  We, too, called on this higher power to help us develop a plan and implement rules to help us all survive.  At that time there was research to find a vaccine, but the only sure things we had were keeping six feet of separation, wearing a mask, and washing our hands.

We immediately went into lockdown mode.  We furnished free masks.  Only residents and a minimum of service people were allowed access to our five buildings.  We tried using Zoom for our AA meetings, but the participants felt that we’d lost the emotion normally present in our meetings.  So we cut back and allowed only people living at Recenter to attend the meetings.  Unfortunately, we had to suspend feeding the homeless too.

Recovering drug and alcohol abusers are survivors.  Many have had near-death experiences.  They are still around because they want to LIVE.  We talked about the only early defensive measures we could take.  We also added the need for testing if anyone had any doubt about their status.  Residents took advantage of pop-up test sites set up by the City of Houston and Harris County.  Abusers also are observant.  Over the years they’ve learned to tell if others are drinking or using.

Our people soon learned to tell what Covid symptoms are and were not bashful about taking someone aside and asking if they plan to get tested, then followed through and insisted anyone testing positive go into self-quarantine.  The effect was to self-police.  We used hand-held thermometers to take non-residents’ temperature who needed entry.

Covid Quarantine

The Pandemic has brought additional stress to all Americans who worry about the safety of themselves and their families.  It has brought stress and additional costs to our operations.  Specifically:

  • 1,000 washable cloth masks were distributed to residents and visitors
  • 10,000 disposable masks were distributed to residents and visitors
  • 100 gallons of hand sanitizer was distributed to residents and visitors
  • 97,200 meals were prepared and delivered directly to resident’s units due to the high risk of communal dining
  • Virtual twelve-step meetings were offered to help support the recovery needs of the community during quarantine
  • We hired extra staff to monitor residents adherence to our rules

We are quite proud of our results during the pandemic:

  • No residents were asked to leave for failure to pay rent
  • No one passed away, no one was hospitalized
  • 7 of 539 residents tested positive for COVID and were quarantined on-site
  • 1 of 46 staff members tested positive for COVID and was quarantined on-site

During the Pandemic our donors have reduced their giving.  We have seen donations decrease over the last 21 months and as a result, have had to cut back on necessary expenditures. Moreover, with the cold weather just around the corner, we expect to have many homeless people moving to our facility in the next few months for shelter.

And Covid continues.  The Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire, which means we will continue to have greater expenses than we expected.

The US observes the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday.  The following Monday is Cyber Monday and Tuesday, November 30 is called Giving Tuesday.

We hope that you will remember the families at Recenter as you celebrate the holidays and give us what you can to allow us to continue to support the homeless and those with alcohol and drug abuse disease.