By Carol Tannenhauser
The sudden evacuation of nearly 300 seniors from Euclid Hall on Monday alarmed witnesses. On Wednesday, Paul Freitag, the executive director of the nonprofit that runs the building, explained the events in a letter sent to WSR, included below.
Euclid Hall is a traditional SRO located on Broadway, between 85th and 86th Streets, housing low-income seniors, some formerly homeless, many with underlying conditions, including addiction and mental illness. Euclid Hall’s high density and shared bathrooms and kitchens made it nearly impossible to practice social distancing.
When a number of staff and residents tested positive for the coronavirus, the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH) made the decision to move the rest to hotels in midtown, where they could safely quarantine, and would have their own bathrooms, three meals a day, and nurses and case managers onsite. The residents were notified and prepared over the weekend.
The evacuation was arduous, but accomplished, as explained in the letter. Each of the vehicles pictured above is an ambulance, not a school bus, holding two people at a time safely. A postscript: Freitag said a few of the residents had pets, which the hotels wouldn’t allow. WSFSSH staff members are caring for them in their owners’ absence, feeding and walking them, as needed. Euclid Hall is being thoroughly cleaned and the residents are expected to return when it is safe.
The letter is here and below.
March 31, 2020
The West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH) is a 45 year old nonprofit that provides housing and services to low-income seniors. In the current crisis, we are finding ourselves at the center of the effort to keep seniors healthy and safe.
For decades, we have provided housing and services on the Upper West Side to 275 seniors living at Euclid Hall. At Euclid Hall the residents have a private room but share bathrooms, kitchens and have a daily congregate meal. In response to COVID 19, we had healthcare professionals confirm that it would be extremely difficult to isolate cases at Euclid, given the shared living arrangement. Simultaneously, we experienced our first cases in the building.
Last Friday, working with the City, we identified hotels where the residents would have private rooms and bathrooms. We also arranged for 3 meals daily and on-site nurses at the hotels to assist in early diagnosis. Recognizing that time was of the essence, over the weekend we worked with our residents to prepare them for the move and on Monday we moved all but a very small number of residents to the hotels where they can have a better chance at staying healthy. The move was coordinated with the City to be as safe as possible.
I would like to thank the City for their assistance as well as WSFSSH staff who are continuing to provide essential services in our buildings and at the hotels. I would also like to thank those members of the Upper West Side community who have reached out to support us during this time. It is so helpful to be part of a community working together to respond to this as best we can.
Paul R. Freitag
West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing