As part of the Operation Shelter to Home effort to protect homeless individuals from the spread of COVID-19, they are recognized throughout the building for their hard work, can-do attitudes, and the advanced personal protective equipment, or PPE, they wear to complete their tasks.
“This work was, in some ways, invisible to most people before COVID-19. Now I think it’s clear how critical it is to keep spaces clean and sanitary,” said Facility Services Manager Ronald Huntjens. “I am so proud of our team’s work ethic and commitment. It's challenging and physically demanding, especially with the PPE, and they come back day after day to get the job done.”
Cameren Anderson, 18, is among the newer members of the team. He has worked at the Convention Center since July 2019, supporting a variety of conventions and trade shows until COVID-19-related public health concerns led to the ban on large gatherings in March. When Anderson heard about Operation Shelter to Home, he said he welcomed the opportunity to be part of the effort.
How would you describe your experience working at the Convention Center?
I’ve made some great friendships here and learned a lot. Some things I’ve learned here I've brought home—such as how to clean and disinfect things here and there, and the importance of good maintenance. I’ve also learned a lot about how to recycle different kinds of materials.
When I heard they were bringing back staff to help with the shelter, I asked to return. I hope this shelter helps people get back on their feet. I know a lot of them don’t have much at the end of the day, such as family and essential resources they need. I try to wave and say “Hi” to people since I’ve started to notice familiar faces. Some of them I know by name, so when I do see them, I ask how they’re doing and how their day has been. I want them to know that I’m more than just a worker getting a job done, that I’m here to help out because I care about the people involved.
Have you adjusted to wearing the PPE?
This was my first time wearing all the gear. We have a couple of different kinds of suits; the white one-piece suits have a little more air flowing through and aren't as heavy on you. It takes me about ten or fifteen minutes to get everything on and sealed up. One of the best parts is when some people call us astronauts or Martians, which I find kind of hilarious. There’s one guy I see almost every other day and he calls out, “Oh hey, there’s my favorite Martian!”
How would you describe your coworkers?
We try to look out for each other. We’ve gotten closer because of all of this. We sometimes buy food for each other – snacks, pizza, things like that – and play games on our phones together during lunch as a way to relieve hard work throughout the shift.
I feel like it’s definitely more of a team effort than it was during normal events. There are way fewer people and we’re all doing the same thing and expressing concern for one another. When one person finishes early, they’ll go help another person who isn’t done. We all know how hard some of the tasks can be, so we look out for each other.
How would you compare this experience to other jobs you’ve had?
This is my first job! My friend worked here during Comic-Con and told me how nice it was, so when I saw an opening for a similar position, I decided to apply.
How have you been spending your time outside of work?
Relaxing, playing video games, taking my dog—a German Shepherd— out for walks, that sort of thing.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
The work pays off because you know you’re helping someone at the end of the day. This is the first time I’ve been through something like this in my lifetime. It’s a part of history, this pandemic, and I’ll be able to say that I did something to help prevent the spread. That I was part of the effort. And at the same time, I was helping people in need.