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.