A food program helped residents of Kepler Hall at YWCA Lancaster to shelter in place during the Covid-19 stay-at-home order. (Photo: Fosterjfoster productions)
A food program helped residents of Kepler Hall at YWCA Lancaster to shelter in place during the Covid-19 stay-at-home order. (Photo: Fosterjfoster productions)

Stacie Blake, CEO, YWCA Lancaster (Photo: Fosterjfoster Productions)

Coronavirus can spread easily between people who are in proximity to each other for extended periods — such as when they live in shared housing.

So the YWCA Lancaster knew its on-site residential program would have to take extra precautions.

About 50 people live at Kepler Hall, part of the YWCA facility at 110 N. Lime St. in Lancaster city.
Most are low-income women in transition, some with children, some without. There are a handful of men as well, and a number of the residents are long-term, CEO Stacie Blake said.

They live in fairly close quarters and share kitchen and bathroom facilities, Blake said. Normally, residents supply their own groceries and other necessities, walking or taking the bus to local stores.

Safety first

If one person were to contract Covid-19, it could readily spread. So it would make sense, the YWCA decided, to buy residents' supplies for them and bring them to Kepler Hall.

That would allow them to remain at home, sharply reducing the risk to their health. It would also provide residents a financial break: All have limited means, and some were laid off due to the pandemic.

The YWCA funded the initiative through a number of sources, including a Lancaster Cares grant.
Residents were deeply grateful, Blake said. One long-time resident was so moved she made a donation by check, saying of the amount: "I wish it had another zero."

Along with the grocery program, the YWCA implemented a comprehensive suite of preventive measures. Masks, gloves and sanitizer were provided to residents and staff. Cleaning and sanitation have been stepped up. Residents' temperatures are checked daily.

To date, Kepler Hall and the YWCA have had no Covid-19 cases, Blake said.

Once Lancaster County went into the green phase, the grocery purchases were wound down. Meanwhile, the shift allowed some of the YWCA's childcare programs to reopen, with new hygiene regimens in place for safety. The Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center staff continue to work remotely, offering telehealth counseling and support services, Blake said.

How you can help

Please consider a donation to Lancaster Cares, a Covid-19 emergency fund set up by Lancaster County Community Foundation and the Lancaster County United Way.

Tim Stuhldreher