Resident Carl Johnson shows off a computer tablet purchased by the Lancaster City Housing Authority with assistance from a Lancaster Cares grant. (Source: Lancaster City Housing Authority)
Resident Carl Johnson shows off a computer tablet purchased by the Lancaster City Housing Authority with assistance from a Lancaster Cares grant. (Source: Lancaster City Housing Authority)

Covid-19 cases have been under control at the Lancaster City Housing Authority, which helps provide safe and affordable housing to about 1,500 families.

With widespread testing, mandated protocols and an alert staff network, only a handful of people associated with the authority have tested positive for Covid-19 since the virus invaded Lancaster in March. And there’s been no real community spread among the residents at the authority's properties.

The authority provides housing to more than 500 people with low income or who have disabilities, and rental assistance to about 1,000 additional families.

Early on, the authority staff closed social rooms, provided care packages and food delivered to individual families, had sanitizing stations at every elevator and mandated masks and social distancing.

But the staff noticed early on that the virus was affecting residents in a different way.

Izzy Rivera

“Isolation,” said Izzy Rivera, the authority's resident service coordinator.

“People weren’t seeing their families," he said. "Some grandparents who had been babysitters weren’t seeing their grandchildren. Residents couldn’t visit with their mom or grandmom.

"Caseworkers weren’t coming in either. There was a loneliness aspect that we knew we had to address.”

Rivera said the isolation was clearly affecting people emotionally and he feared that, in turn, could make some people more vulnerable to illness.

The City Housing Authority applied and received a $2,750 grant from the Lancaster Cares fund to help solve the problem.

Set up by the Lancaster County Community Foundation and the United Way of Lancaster, the fund assists organizations that provide food and housing and address critical needs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“With the grant we purchased 10 (computer) tablets, a charging station, screen protectors, computer wipes and two mobile hotspots,” Rivera said.

Residents, he said "not only got to connect with family and friends online, but they were able to do virtual doctors’ visits and have sessions with a counselor.”

Rivera said he takes the tablets to people who need to connect, sets them up, even makes the call and then leaves them alone for privacy. When people are done, they call Rivera and he disinfects the device before charging it back up for the next person.

“It’s absolutely helped people,“ Rivera said. “Beside the doctors’ appointments, counseling appointments, recently one resident who looks forward to seeing her sister from Florida every year, and of course she couldn’t come because of COVID, they could see and speak to each other virtually. You could just see the sisters’ joy and happiness.”

Rivera said the organization is “absolutely grateful” for the Lancaster Cares fund.

“If it changes one person or assists one person, I support the concept,” he said. “It’s really helped the morale here and certainly helped everyone’s emotional health.”

Susan Baldrige