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NGO, De La Salle provide shelter to homeless Manila residents during quarantine

/ 04:05 AM March 24, 2020

SHELTER FROMTHE VIRUS Social distancing is practiced at a covered court in De La Salle University on Taft Avenue, Manila, which serves as a temporary shelter for 70 street dwellers and indigents. According to Noel Feliciano of AJ Kalinga Foundation Inc., the beneficiaries are afraid of starving on the streets during the monthlong Luzon lockdown. —PHOTO COURTESY OF DLSU FACEBOOK PAGE

When street dwellers in the City of Manila were offered a temporary shelter to keep them safe from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during the Luzon-wide lockdown, they did not hesitate to leave the abandoned streets, bringing with them their meager possessions.“They told us they didn’t have anywhere else to go, no home to return to. They said they didn’t have enough food to eat,” said Noel Feliciano, program director of Arnold Janssen Kalinga Foundation Inc. (AJKFI). The nongovernmental organization conducts regular programs for the homeless and poor in Metro Manila.

Thrice a week, 250 street dwellers and indigent individuals from different areas in the city would go to AJ Kalinga Center in Tayuman for its feeding program. Each one would get a viand and a cup of rice once a day.But as the national government placed Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of COVID-19, barangay officials prohibited AJKFI from accommodating too many people in the name of social distancing.

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“Even if we practiced social distancing as much as possible, the barangay chair still did not allow us to operate. But we had no choice; other feeding centers had closed down due to the virus, so the homeless were coming to us,” Feliciano told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

On-campus facilities

Fr. Flavie Villanueva, AJKFI president, promptly reached out to his colleagues and friends at De La Salle University (DLSU) and DLS-College of St. Benilde (DLS-CSB) on Taft Avenue, asking them if there were any on-campus facilities that could temporarily accommodate the homeless for the duration of the monthlong lockdown.

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Although it wanted to accommodate all 250 people, AJKFI was allowed only to house 70 street dwellers and nine volunteers at Enrique Razon Sports Center in DLSU and 70 more at a basketball court in DLS-CSB to practice social distancing.Feliciano said they prioritized elderly women and persons with disabilities who lived in Rizal Park and the streets of Tayuman, Carriedo, Escolta, T.M. Kalaw and Mabini Avenue.

He said Villanueva was still trying to contact other colleagues who would be willing to take in the remaining 110 individuals.At the temporary shelters, the 140 beneficiaries are being fed three times a day. They were also given sleeping mats, blankets, toiletries, vitamins, surgical and cloth masks and laundry soap.Security guards and other personnel in the schools were instructed not to allow them to leave the premises since “we provide all their needs.”

“Once they were inside the covered courts, they were given policies and procedures to follow. They were also assured that they were housed inside the schools for their safety and security,” Feliciano said.

Limited space

He added that since space was limited at the Enrique Razon Sports Center’s wash area, the street dwellers were split into two groups and given a schedule for taking baths or washing clothes.

But despite the organization and schools’ willingness to provide everything for their temporary guests, Feliciano said their food would last only until tomorrow (Wednesday).

Their supply of vitamins and pain-relief medicine supply was also running low, as some of the elderly often complained of headaches and toothaches,

Surgical masks and other sanitizing equipment were also scarce, as they could not risk allowing the dwellers to reuse protective equipment that could expose them to other illnesses.“We are relying only on donations of any kind for now. We are trying to contact other institutions who can help us provide everything they need,” Feliciano said. INQ(Donations can be deposited in AJ Kalinga Foundation Inc.’s savings accounts at Asia United Bank (Account No. 082-11-000496-2); Bank of the Philippine Islands (Account No. 1959-3450-46) and PayPal [email protected])

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