The Inter-Faith Council for Social Service received the 2021 Community Impact Award at the annual Business Excellence Award ceremony, granted by The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro.
The Chamber, whose goal is to provide business owners with knowledge and a network that can help expand their enterprise, selected IFC for the award because of its role in sheltering and providing services to those who are experiencing homelessness in Carrboro during the pandemic.
“The Community Impact Award is presented to an outstanding organization that has significantly and measurably made social, economic, or environmental improvements within the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community,” The Chamber said in a press release.
After the CDC published official guidance on reducing crowds in homeless shelters, IFC worked in partnership with ATMA Hotel Group to give people experiencing homelessness dignified and safe accommodations that met pandemic guidelines the state had set.
To achieve this goal, IFC staff worked around the clock every day of the pandemic, giving 24/7 service to those in need, said Jennifer Gill, the development and communications director at IFC.
Its shelters were set up in close-quarters living spaces, like college dorms, which was detrimental to the health of the residents, she said, as it didn't allow for any social distancing. The organization was then able to move those experiencing homelessness out of that congregate setting and into hotel rooms at the Quality Inn.
“We wanted to provide a space for everyone living in congregate shelters: a hotel room to themselves with their own bathroom, for all residents of the shelter for single men,” Gill said.
While the residents were at the hotel, she said IFC made changes to the interior of both the single men’s shelter and the women's and families' shelter.
The organization, Gill said, also implemented plexiglass around the front desk, medical-grade curtains in the rooms, and rearranged furniture to encourage distancing.
“Upgrading the building was the main reason for the move,” Gill said. “Normally, residents would be in our shelter and we would provide case management services from there. Having that take place at the hotel was really important for health.”
IFC also provided almost 55,000 hot meals, more than 15,000 bags of groceries, and hundreds of holiday meals to residents while also registering 110 new voters and opening the new IFC Commons in Carrboro over the past year.
Aaron Nelson, the CEO of The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro, said he aims to provide success for the community in the long run.
Nelson said the Chamber tries to lift up and highlight community members who have done exceptional work in a variety of categories through the Business Excellence Awards.
“We’re really proud of this organization in particular, for this hotel to convert into a homeless shelter," Nelson said. "It’s a wonderful story of people coming together to serve our community.”
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