I am writing you to let you know about some of the temporary changes we are making at Rainbow Place Shelter, in concert with Montgomery County DHHS, to ensure we continue to both best serve the people who need us and continue to manage the resources we have been so generously given in the most prudent and cost-effective way.
Rainbow Place has evolved a lot over the last decade. The most critical element of that evolution has been a strategic shift in mission focus from providing temporary, emergency shelter to women experiencing homelessness to helping those same women transition into more stable, long term housing. It has been a gradual shift to meet both the needs of the people we serve and our growing role as an integral part of the full continuum of care that Montgomery County DHHS provides.
That core mission and our strategy for delivering against it have not changed. However, COVID has made everything about this year very different. I am incredibly proud of how agile not only Rainbow Place, but all the partners serving Montgomery County’s vulnerable populations have been with respect to adapting to meet challenges we never imagined before last March.
Conversion of the Coffield Recreation Center and vacant hotel rooms into emergency shelters has created both a short-term oversupply of beds and a corresponding shortage of service providers for women experiencing homelessness in Montgomery County. In response to this short-term inversion of supply and demand, the County has asked Rainbow Place to temporarily shift our focus from providing beds to providing services. This means that in the near term, instead of maintaining our facility, we will transition both our guests and much of our staff to other locations. This shift will enable both Rainbow Place Shelter and the County to make the most efficient and effective use of the resources Rainbow Donors and County Taxpayers have so generously provided.
To be absolutely clear, Montgomery County DHHS wants, needs and fully expects Rainbow’s shelter operations to resume next fall. They have stated multiple times that Montgomery County is relying on Rainbow Place to remain a critical component of the County’s continuum of services. Even during this period while we are not providing overnight shelter, Rainbow’s amazing staff will be working at other facilities, providing case management services, filling critical gaps at warming centers in Rockville and Germantown, and doing everything we can to help transition and divert as many women in crisis as we can during these difficult times.
I am incredibly confident that 2021 is going to be a better year than 2020, and nothing would make me happier than to think that when this is over, homelessness will be a thing of the past, and shelters like Rainbow Place won’t be needed anymore. Unfortunately, however, I know all too well that will not be the case.
With some analysts estimating unpaid rents in the US now total more than $70B, and economists predicting another uneven recovery, we know all too well that when the pandemic is over and evictions resume, millions of Americans will likely lose their homes just about the same time as rec centers go back to being rec centers and hotels start filling up with their usual guests. The inevitable result is that the shortage of beds for people experiencing homelessness will return with a vengeance this fall. When it does, Rainbow Place will be fully prepared to shift resources back to our shelter operations and provide the most vulnerable among us the helping hand they need.
Thank you so much for the overwhelming community support you’ve provided throughout the pandemic. We could never have transformed so seamlessly from an overnight shelter to a 24-hour shelter without you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Please stay safe. I look forward to seeing you again soon.
The mission of Rainbow Place is to provide women emergency overnight shelter during the hypothermia season and assist them as they transition to a better quality of life.
Rainbow Place is an emergency shelter. We work with women who are often at the very beginning of their transition out of homelessness to keep them safe during the harsh winter months.
We need many volunteers year round to help us fulfill our mission. In addition to cash, in kind donations of goods and services are always appreciated.