Victorian Village CDC Provides Greatly Needed COVID-19 Relief for the City’s Homeless During the Pandemic

Assisi Foundation and City of Memphis team up to provide funding  


Victorian Village CDC (VictorianVillageInc.org) in cooperation with EcoPro Services (EcoProGuard.com) are providing disinfection treatment intended to help reduce the likelihood of our homeless contracting diseases like COVID-19, flu, and cold. According to Scott Blake, Executive Director of the CDC, “Since September we have been disinfecting many of the shelters, places of worship, and other facilities that assist our homeless and helpless. Continuing this program would not be possible without the bridge grant provided by the Assisi Foundation. The Assisi grant led to a subsequent larger grant by the City of Memphis’ Housing and Community Development Division to extend these much-needed services.” Blake further added, “Keeping all the people who live and work in our area safe is our top concern. Until life here resumes some normalcy, we decided this is the best way we can give back while providing some security to our whole community.”  

Feature image from VictorianVillageInc.org

Speaking with StoryBoard last week, Blake talked about how the program was started:

“In late March when the governor announced the state of emergency the Victorian Village board and the staff got together and said ‘Look, we’re on a shoestring budget already. Why don’t we take a furlough of the staff and just see where it goes?’ So we all just went into hiding, and when they announced the Tennessee Cares Act funding – which was a much bigger pool of money grant sizes were around $450,000 – I just said ‘well, let’s just keep applying for these grants because the need is so great.” 

“The first grant we applied for,” Blake went on, “included every business and residential high-rise within Victorian Village boundaries, which are Danny Thomas, Madison, Poplar Avenue, Manassas. So it was a lot of properties, and I’d come to know the people who run the sanitation service. I said ‘well, let’s put two and two together. I mean, we’ve got a ready and able supplier and we have so much need . . . and look at the 10 sites that are within Victorian Village that are either homeless shelters or support services for the homeless.” 

The disinfection consists of a two-step process involving electrostatically charged aerosols that not only combat but also help prevent the spread of all kinds of sickness. It is ever more important to try and reduce the spread of disease today, not only due to the pandemic, but considering it may soon be coupled with a potentially disastrous upcoming cold and flu season that some experts have termed the potential “twindimic.” With funding provided by the Assisi Foundation, the City of Memphis, and ongoing help from other donors, such disinfections can continue into next year and beyond. 

“Over the past few months, we realized that our area homeless are truly the most vulnerable population to the spread of COVID-19. As a result, the CDC and EcoProGuard started working together to aid these organizations in their effort to help curtail the rampant spread. Receiving these grants along with continued generous donations will allow us to extend the time providing this added form of protection for our community” said Kevin Lewis with EcoPro Services.  

With the homeless population being vulnerable to the disease, unable to seek treatment, and unfortunately on the rise, the Victorian Village board decided to look beyond its CDC boundaries.

“We’ve reached outside of our borders by a couple of blocks,” Blake said, “to places like the Hospitality Hub on Second Street and to Manna House Memphis by Catholic Charities. It’s not directly in our borders, but we’re allowed to, because they’re such important facilities, and we just decided to include those as well with what we were doing.”

Community partners already benefitting from disinfection are Memphis Union Mission, Constance Abbey, St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral and Diocesan House, Hospitality Hub, Door of Hope, Manna House, Meritan Inc., and the pre-surgery coronavirus screening facilities of Le Bonheur Methodist. 

The need will only become greater as the calendar turns to winter. But the support community has continued to respond to the growing needs. “Hospitality Hub had to add a women’s overnight-stay shelter within the last few months,” said Blake. “And we don’t expect it to get any better for several months. It’s just going to get worse.”

Addressing the worthiness of this disinfection program for our homeless, Scott Bjork, President of Memphis Union Mission, commented, “This disinfection is a significant addition to the COVID protocols the Mission has been using during the pandemic to keep our guests safe.” Jarad Bingham of the Hospitality Hub added, “Providing a safe place for our neighbors in need during such a critical time in our community is paramount to what we do. These cleanings are just another comfort measure we can put in place for them.”  

For the needy communities within and outside the Victorian Village, the good news, as Scott Blake said, is that “we’re back in the game now. Victorian Village is up and running again with paid staff after the six months furlough. So we’re happy to announce that. And this is one of the one of the biggest, broadest region programs we’ve ever done. We’re just lucky to have these partners that think it’s worthwhile.”

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