CLEVELAND — An Ohio company that manages short-term rentals is now housing front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It's a way for the company to keep its own employees working, while helping those who are working to keep patients safe.
"It’s pretty scary, it’s pretty terrifying and things are changing constantly, so it’s uncertainty and a lot of unknown," said Ariel Mumford, a clinical technician in the ICU at the Cleveland Clinic, of what work has been like during the pandemic.
Mumford lives with her parents, both of whom are over 60, and she doesn't want to put them at risk as a result of her job.
"Both my parents have asthma and other comorbidities, and I was just afraid to bring that home to them," Mumford said. "Even though I could be as careful as I can at work, there’s still no guarantee."
She's found a way around it for now. For the last two weeks, she's been staying somewhere else, thanks to the Caregiver Shelter Fund.
"We know that a lot of caregivers that are out there helping patients are scared to take the virus home to their loved ones," Sean Whittaker, a partner sales executive at Airriva, said.
Airriva is an Ohio company that typically manages short-term rentals that Whittaker said are "high-end, luxurious, unique and modern."
With event cancellations and travel restrictions, business dried up for Airriva.
"We were looking at opportunities to A, keep our people employed and then B, find a way to give back to the caregivers," Whittaker said.
Several buildings in Cleveland, including the Tudor Arms Hotel and the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Cleveland, are among those where caregivers and front-line workers are now staying, at no cost to them. Whittaker said the Caregiver Shelter Fund is currently being used to house about 30 workers, but another 50 or so are on a waiting list.
Their stays are paid for with donations from the community, as well as a $25,000 match from Airriva.
"Anything counts," Whittaker said of the donations. "Five dollars. 58 [dolllars] covers a night and then $400 covers a week for caregivers that are on our waiting list."
Erica Hannon was on the waiting list but will now be spending her first night in her temporary housing on Thursday.
Hannon, a pharmacy technician at CVS, lives with her grandmother, mother and younger sister. She said all of them have lung issues.
"My grandmother especially," Hannon said. "She’s in remission. She just was fighting lung cancer and they took half of her left lung out, so she’s really at risk for this whole thing."
She said knowing she had a place to stay away from her family was "a pretty great feeling."
"I’m going to miss them," Hannon said. "But at the same time, I know I’m doing what’s best for everyone at this time."
She described having another place to stay as "kind of like a save haven that I can go to, to make sure that I’m doing my part, especially now, to help prevent the spread of this virus that’s going around."
Hannon said she was happy that this was available for all caregivers, not just doctors and nurses but also "nursing assistants, pharmacy technicians, pharmacists, the lab technicians, everybody else who’s still working."
For Ariel Mumford, keeping her family safe has given her a chance to breathe.
"All day at work we’re holding our breath, just hoping and praying that things get better," Mumford said. "And then I get to go home and know that I’m not bringing anything into my parent's house."
While she only has one week left in temporary housing, she's hoping donations keep coming in so that she and other caregivers can stay longer to keep their families safe.
"Hopefully, things will be getting better, as we all hope," Mumford said. "But you never know, and when my time is up here, I will still be looking for somewhere that’s not home to keep my family safe."
In addition to housing workers, Airriva employees also handed out free meals to workers on Thursday, donated by Lago East Bank. Whittaker said about 25 meals were donated.