You are here

What One Company is Doing to Help Residents Cope with COVID-19

May 2020

A Philadelphia-based firm is using its foundation and communication to care for residents.

This is the sixth in a recurring series of articles looking at how apartment owners, managers and developers have mobilized to protect themselves and their residents from the spread of the novel (meaning new) coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S.

A year and a half ago, the owners of Pennrose decided to start a foundation. They intended to partner with nonprofits and community-based organizations in the neighborhoods where the company owns apartments.

For instance, employees would make box lunches or dinners and then take them out into surrounding neighborhoods.

“If they [local groups] were doing food drives, cleanups, clothing drives or any kind of neighborhood activities, we would support those from both a fiscal and manpower perspective,” says Mark H. Dambly, President of Pennrose. “A number of our employees are very engaged in their communities.”

Pennrose’s foundation is also focused on enriching the lives of its residents. During the back-to-school season, it contributed a thousand backpacks for children in its communities. It also provided college and summer program scholarships for its residents.

The foundation was making an impact in the community—then the COVID-19 outbreak hit. “With the recent coronavirus pandemic, we as an organization felt that we needed to do something immediate to address the current situation,” Dambly says.

Pennrose established the Resident Relief Fund to provide support to residents who are facing adverse effects from COVID-19. The foundation announced that it would match contributions to the COVID-19 Resident Relief Fund up to $25,000. “We are working on an application process for residents to provide how they have been impacted by the virus and what needs they have,” Dambly says.

Soon after Pennrose announced the fund, there was interest. “We’ve had many contributions in the 48 hours since we’ve announced the fund,” Dambly says. “We’ve got a lot of banks and investors who have expressed an interest in contributing to it.”

In addition to establishing the fund, Pennrose has been devoting time to stay in touch with its residents, especially seniors.

“Almost all of our residents are staying in place,” Dambly says. “So there are some issues of them getting deliveries of food and medicine and activities. We’re calling all of our seniors, checking-in with them, asking them how they’re doing and what we can do to help them.”

Before shifting its foundation’s focus, Pennrose, like many firms, focused on onsite mobilization. It created a coronavirus task force that checks-in daily at 9 a.m. The group includes representatives from operations, leasing, human resources, marketing, asset management, finance, information technology and risk management.

“We go over what has happened in the last 24 hours and what we need to anticipate in the next 24 hours,” Dambly says. “From an operational perspective, we put the health, safety and welfare of our employees and our residents at the forefront.”

The company reached out to its residents early on to share best practices for health hygiene. “We’ve communicated directly with our residents in terms of how they should be taking care of themselves,” Dambly says. “We’re asking them to let us know if they’re having any symptoms, they’ve been quarantined, they’ve been tested and they’ve been tested positive.”

In a couple of instances, residents have tested positive for COVID-19. “We’ve had third parties come in and do a thorough cleaning of the common areas before anyone else would go back in,” Dambly says. “We’re taking all of those precautions.”

Pennrose also shut down common areas and closed offices to the public. “We’re available via phone call, email and texting,” Dambly says.

Like many other firms, Pennrose stopped capital improvements and non-emergency maintenance.

“We’ve been keeping our maintenance people and our management people away from each other,” Dambly says. “They’re at the sites at different times, and they’re not interacting together.”

With six properties in lease-up when COVID-19 hit, Pennrose needed to adjust its strategy. “We went out and did virtual tours of all of them,” Dambly says. “We’re signing our leases and doing our compliance virtually.”