April 13, 2020 / Modified apr 13, 2020 4:11 p.m.

Tucson homeless shelter for women adapts services during outbreak

Sister Jose Women's Center has suspended some activities and closed its shelter to new residents but is still providing food.

sister jose sign The sign for Sister José Women's Shelter, 2017.

The new coronavirus has forced Sister José Women’s Center to change how it serves women experiencing homelessness in Tucson.

The center postponed the majority of its day-program activities and closed its night shelter to new residents. Executive Director Jean Fedigan said when she closed the shelter in late March, she told the people sleeping there on the last night they could stay, if they seclude themselves. Fedigan said 21 women are sheltering in place and social distancing at the center, but in order to keep the center open and virus-free, she promised Pima Country to isolate the group.

“I have women who are trying really hard, and to just put them on the street and not keep them well, so we can get them back to work, get them back to training right away, didn’t seem to be the right thing to do,” Fedigan said.

She said to truly isolate the 21 women staying at the shelter, she had to cut back on the center’s daytime services.

The day program served 100 to 120 women experiencing homelessness each day before COVID-19. They could do a variety of things at the center each day, like shower, do laundry, eat a meal or rest. Now Fedigan said she can’t let people into the center, but Fedigan, who is also a nurse, hasn’t stopped distributing food, clothes or hygiene products at the door almost every morning.

“I’m the one that stands at the door, talking to the folks on the outside. I’m masked. I’m gloved. I’m doing whatever I can, but I’m doing the best I can do to make sure that they’re OK,” Fedigan said.

The center is accepting donations of walking shoes, food and bottled water.

“I founded this thing 10 years ago, and this is the hardest thing I’ve done,” Fedigan said. “It is so difficult when you can’t provide that safe environment and bring them inside and help them with everything they need.”

By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
AZPM is a service of the University of Arizona and our broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents who hold the trademarks for Arizona Public Media and AZPM. We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples.
The University of Arizona