FEMALES ON THE FRONT LINES FEATURE: RACHEL NAPOLITANO
Q: What is your current role at YWCA?
A: Services Coordinator at Norma Herr Women’s Center
Q: What does it mean to you to be on the front lines of this pandemic?
A: Working at Norma Herr during the pandemic has highlighted for me the lack of dignity afforded to persons experiencing houseless-ness. Being able to shelter-at-home for the most part, I have privacy within my own space and control over whom I share that space with. This is a privilege our guests are not afforded, but everyone should have the ability to control a little bit of living space in an equitable world.
Being on the front lines during the pandemic has made me grateful for everything that I have and I am amazed by the resiliency and strength our guests exhibit each day.
Q: Can you share a specific story about your time working on the front lines of this crisis?
A: One of our employed guests has been very close to attaining stable housing many times during her stay at Norma Herr. At the beginning of the pandemic, she turned down an opportunity to be a part of our first cohort to be sheltered off-site at a hotel because she had an apartment lined up, again. Within 5 minutes of deciding to stay at the shelter instead of moving into the hotel, she found out that the apartment she planned to move into was taken by someone else. I saw hope escape from her face, it was devastating.
This guest has been razor close to securing decent, affordable housing in Northeast Ohio so many times. She’s even been promised housing in a few instances and for reasons beyond her control, those promises fell through. Because of the pandemic, she has been underemployed despite having no shortage of work experience. Tenacious, determined, focused, and hard-working, she has done everything in her power to establish a secure and stable life for herself. There are simply not enough affordable and available housing options for the working poor. Her story exposes the holes in our social fabric. Hard work alone does not yield stability.
Q: How can the community support your work?
A: The pandemic has made life for our guests at Norma Herr extremely challenging. Community support around organizing meals and snacks for our guests, donating supplies from the YWCA/NHWC wish list, and making charitable gifts to the center would be beneficial during this difficult time.
As we know, racism has been a fundamental barrier to attaining stable and affordable housing, earning a livable wage, access to quality education and equitable healthcare, COVID-19 has exacerbated these inequalities.