Nonprofit caring for developmentally disabled adults continues to serve despite challenges

KING COUNTY -- As our community and country continues to combat COVID-19, there's been a lot of emphasis on essential workers, the people we depend on: from healthcare workers to grocery store clerks. But there are some in our community who are perhaps a little less visible and less recognized who are still going to work every day to care for a high-risk group who may need them now more than ever.

The nonprofit Camelot Society cares for numerous developmentally disabled adults in King County. The nonprofit has group homes and assisted living facilities that heavily depend on staff being there throughout the day.

"We've had to sit down and explain what's going on," says Natalie Wyatt, a lead individual support counselor with the nonprofit.

Natalie says their residents' lives have been interrupted by the virus like the rest of us, but staff is working hard to give them as much normalcy as possible.

"We can’t do our work from home, we have to come in."

Without the staff, it would be very difficult for the residents to go about their day, so they're dedicated to showing up everyday, but there are some concerns.

While the residents are all self-quarantining, that's not possible for the staff. They have to come and go, and get essential items for their residents.

"Its honestly a worry of every day…each of our residents is high risk."

Staff is constantly dealing with the stress of possibly bringing the virus into the facility, while also juggling the issue of a lack of PPE.

"We have been experiencing a shortage of gloves, personal protective equipment, such as the masks and the gowns, and it is a really big concern."

Recently the Camelot Society had homemade masks donated to them by another non-profit, Refugee Artisan Initiative. Natalie says the donation made a huge difference.

"We’re not like a nursing home or a hospital which have been very visible through all this. There are supported living homes, group homes like ours, and other adult family homes that are struggling with this as well."

One of the biggest struggles she's referencing is keeping their homes stocked with essential items.

"If it's something like toilet paper or paper towels that's running low, it can be a huge challenge and could involve us just trying to make do with what we have."

Struggling to find toilet paper for their disabled clients is the unfortunate reality staff has found themselves in too often. Natalie says she hopes when people grocery shop they will try to be mindful and not overbuy necessities. But at work, Natalie and staff don't dwell on the challenges they're facing. They're focused on bringing positivity to their residents and making the best of this time in quarantine.

If you'd like to help, the items they could use the most right now are gloves, cleaning supplies, paper goods, and recreational items like puzzles, crafts, and activity books. Things like that could greatly help the dedicated staff and really make a difference.