Joining Forces for the Homeless in California

National Headquarters  |  April 9, 2020
California State Senator Connie M. Leyva (center) thanks Tzu Chi USA CEO, Jackson Chen (left), and Executive Vice President Dr. Han Huang (right), for Tzu Chi's donation of medical supplies for the homeless in Pomona. Photo by Huiching Su

Written by Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

Preventive measures are vital during the COVID-19 pandemic and must include efforts to protect homeless populations and prevent the spread of the virus among them. Many counties and cities in the United States are taking action on that front. 

On the West Coast, California State Senator Connie M. Leyva is collaborating with Tzu Chi USA to raise awareness about the needs of the homeless in Pomona, a city in Los Angeles County.

On March 28, 2020, Tzu Chi USA Chief Executive Officer, Jackson Chen, and Executive Vice President Dr. Han Huang met with Senator Leyva and brought a variety of personal protective equipment and medical supplies to donate. 

During the meeting, they discussed joint efforts to help prevent infection at Hope for Home, a year-round homeless services center in the city of Pomona, as well as maintain the overall health of the community at large.

Tzu Chi’s Help Is Invaluable

Senator Leyva took stock of the protective and medical items donated by Tzu Chi – including surgical masks, thermometers, hand sanitizer, and other disinfectants. She then confirmed that the Hope for Home homeless shelter in Pomona is in urgent need of such supplies, which are very hard to come by right now. Smiling broadly, she expressed her thanks, saying that Tzu Chi’s help is invaluable to the community during this time of crisis. 

We’re living in a challenging time. I don’t know that any of us thought we’d be living through the COVID-19 pandemic, and we feel so lucky here in Senator District 20 that we can reach out to the [Buddhist] Tzu Chi Foundation for help. Today you [Tzu Chi volunteers] brought us masks, Lysol, thermometers, hand sanitizers, and wipes; all things that will be critically important in a homeless shelter.

Senator Connie M. Leyva California State Senate, Representing the 20th District

Senator Leyva receives constant requests from medical institutions to urge Californians to stay home to prevent infection, and avoid ending up needing treatment at overburdened hospitals. And so, she repeatedly reminds residents in her district that we’re all in the same boat and must each do our part to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

By following directives to stay-at-home, maintain a safe social distance, frequently wash our hands, and avoid touching our faces, we’re not just protecting ourselves but others as well. Senator Leyva firmly believes that by cooperating and respecting the guidelines, Californians and Americans nationwide will be able to overcome this difficult time together.

Jackson Chen (second left) and Dr. Han Huang (first left), Executives of Tzu Chi USA, meet with California Senator Connie Leyva (first right) on March 28, 2020. Photo / Jennifer Chien
California State Senator Connie M. Leyva accepts Tzu Chi USA’s request for an interview and calls on all state residents to do their part in stopping the pandemic. Photo / Huiching Su

Emergency Aid and a Long-Term Recovery Plan

Tzu Chi volunteers are also doing their part to protect the people in the communities they serve at this critical time. 

Jackson Chen, CEO of Tzu Chi USA, shared with Senator Leyva that Tzu Chi volunteers have been contacting and visiting local hospitals, police and fire stations, and senate district offices. They have been donating medical supplies where needed, paying particular attention to protecting the safety of heroes on the front-line of pandemic response. Tzu Chi USA also launched its “Flatten the Curve” campaign to support these aid efforts.

And, as always, Tzu Chi is keeping the long-term picture in mind. Once the pandemic abates, communities will face a variety of challenges in the aftermath of the pause in the economy.

Tzu Chi has always arrived at the scene first and been the last to leave. This pandemic brought distress to the world, and the unemployment rate in the United States is extremely high. It’s foreseeable that after the pandemic comes to an end, there will be many families living under abnormal conditions. Tzu Chi USA will provide the necessary financial assistance, which will be part of an immense long-term recovery program. We’re already planning this large-scale project aimed at creating a better future for families in need.

Jackson Chen, Chief Executive Officer, Tzu Chi USA

Answering Their Dire Needs

After receiving the supplies donated by Tzu Chi USA at California’s 20th Senate District Office, Senator Leyva’s staff quickly contacted Hope for Home homeless services center in Pomona. Shortly after, on the morning of March 30, the senator personally delivered the supplies to the center. Reggie Clark, Program Manager for Volunteers of America, the organization that runs Hope for Home, warmly welcomed her and the Tzu Chi volunteers who had come as well.

Benita DeFrank-Castellano (left), Neighborhood Services Director for the City of Pomona, Reggie Clark (center), Program Manager for Volunteers of America, the organization that runs Hope for Home, and Senator Leyva (right), thank Tzu Chi for the urgently needed supplies. Photo / Huiching Su

Seeing what the center had received, especially the thermometers and medical masks, Reggie exclaimed that he’d been trying to buy such supplies on the internet. Unfortunately, his purchases were either canceled or put on backorder. Tzu Chi’s donation consisted of precisely what was most urgently needed.

Reggie was also delighted to greet the Tzu Chi volunteers who had accompanied the senator that morning. 

Tzu Chi and I are old friends. Tzu Chi has long provided supplies needed at this center, such as the eco-blankets. Over the years, Tzu Chi has always been the best partner. During this pandemic, I’m grateful to Tzu Chi for their continuous support in providing these supplies, including the thermometers, medical masks, and hand sanitizers. Because these supplies are very much needed here.

Reggie Clark, Program Manager for Volunteers of America
The Hope for Home service center and shelter in Pomona helps the homeless population in the community. Photo / Jennifer Chien
Connie Leyva (left), California State Senator, and Reggie Clark (right), Program Manager for Volunteers of America, the organization that runs Hope for Home, happily inventory the supplies donated by Tzu Chi USA. Photo / Jennifer Chien

Hope for Home, which opened in December 2018, is the first year-round emergency shelter for the homeless in the region, and can accommodate up to 200 people providing temporary residence. 

To meet the social distancing regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the center temporarily reduced maximum occupancy to 150 people. Center staff also instruct residents on hygiene and proper handwashing, as well as guidelines for maintaining social distance. Everyone seeking shelter must now also go through a temperature check and assessment for any flu-like symptoms. The supplies provided by Tzu Chi have helped the center tremendously in safely implementing these essential protocols.

Benita DeFrank-Castellano, Neighborhood Services Director for the City of Pomona, is especially grateful for the supplies, in particular, the medical masks, which the city had tried to buy, but they were no longer available. Tzu Chi ’s donation can now help ensure the safety of the residents of the Hope for Home shelter. 

At a time when the nation is trying to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should not forget about the homeless populations in our communities. They also need our love, care, and protection. Please join us in our efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Protecting our communities is everyone’s responsibility. 

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