Worker Experience: Demetrica

Laid off from one job and working with minimal safety measures in her other job as a healthcare worker, Demetrica Shipp is facing eviction if things don’t change.

“I’ve been a healthcare worker for 35 years and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it. We don’t have the things to keep people safe,” Demetrica said. “PPE is so very important – more than anything to me, but I’ve just got one pair of gloves and one mask to work with. My employer told me to be sure I wash it at least 30 times before I’m allowed to get another one.”

Demetrica works seven days a week providing personal care to a patient who suffers from chronic seizures. She is expected to wash her mask before every shift, meaning each mask must last an entire month.

“They say they’re going to work with you. If you think that one mask and one pack of gloves is really working out, it’s not. It’s not enough.” Demetrica explained the anxieties she has from insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. “We are healthcare workers, we’re out there on the front lines. If we get sick – oh my god.”

The deficiencies in PPE pose a threat not only to health, but also to the economic well-being of frontline workers like Demetrica.

“You are more in danger of getting the COVID-19 and then what are you going to do [for] work? If I get sick I can’t even go [to the doctor] because I don’t have insurance,” she explained. “I have not been sick, I can’t get sick…If I get sick I won’t have that income.”

Demetrica normally works two jobs to help support her three sons and fifteen grandchildren, but the economic downturn from COVID-19 caused her to be laid off from her second job.

“I got laid off [from] my job [and] my income has dropped incredibly, to the point where I can’t pay my rent,” Demetrica has until the end of July to make up missed rent payments due to her layoff. With her landlord threatening eviction, Demetrica has spent countless hours trying to access aid to secure her material needs. The pandemic has complicated the process of accessing assistance.

“I’ve done everything necessary to try to maintain my living arrangement,” she explained, referencing the difficulties she faces in connecting with organizations and government departments that provide aid. “I’ve called a few numbers where you can’t get through. You have to call every day, you have to call at five o’clock in the morning, stay on the phone for two, three hours just trying to get through to someone. Who are you supposed to talk to? I have major issues going on right now.”

With her eviction court date approaching out and without her regular dual income, Demetrica spends time each day trying to access resources for material need and living assistance, but she is not hopeful that help will come.

“I would like to see some funding getting spread out to help the working people. We’re working people that can’t pay our bills and now we need assistance and we can’t get it. That bothers me. You can’t get the help,” Demetrica said. “They’re making it very hard to live right now.”