June 8, 2020
When the coronavirus first hit Tacoma, Washington, Alliance member Valeo Vocation was quick to pivot away from its traditional staffing model and support area nonprofit agencies’ new operations and sanitation needs. As CEO Sherri Jensen puts it, “It was critical for us to figure out how to stay relevant.”
Valeo mobilized to supply nonprofits with shelter aides and custodial workers, while continuing to staff two long-time commercial accounts that are considered essential businesses.
Initially, Valeo staff worked with the local health department and homeless service providers, including the area's two largest shelters, to design, implement and operate a COVID-19 exposure shelter. At the same time, Valeo expanded its job seeker pool beyond people experiencing homelessness, to include individuals who lost jobs due to COVID.
Valeo designed a rigorous training program for staff placed at shelters, and Sherri Jensen worked with Coordinated Care, which manages the state’s Medicaid insurance program, to deliver a 5-part Trauma-Informed Care series, that all staff were required to attend.
Shelter aides work side-by-side with medical staff to conduct intakes, coordinate with local medical facilities to accept incoming guests, record notes, maintain 24/7 shelter supervision, assist with food delivery, assign beds, distribute clothing and hygiene supplies, manage temperature taking, and coordinate transportation between facilities.
Valeo subsequently carried this operation into a nonprofit-run COVID-19 positive shelter, staffed by two medical professionals (an RN and CNA) and two Valeo employees who are on site 24/7. They also placed shelter aides and operational support at a family shelter, helping this facility increase its capacity for extended hours of service and to upgrade safety and hygiene protocols. In addition, Valeo has partnered with the YMCA to open and staff a Community Shower program for people experiencing homelessness.
Finally, Valeo obtained a grant to launch a 12-week paid Custodial Training program and is placing 8 new custodial workers at a discounted mark-up to local nonprofits. Sherri Jensen notes, “We recognize that these high-impact nonprofits already operate on small margins and the exorbitant cost of focusing on community hygiene is an unplanned expense. We want to do good in the community and will take a hit in gross profit with the hope of growing revenue in the long run.”