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PHOTO ESSAY: QC popsicle shop turns into homeless shelter amid Luzon Lockdown

Text and Photos by Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 21 2020 12:18 PM | Updated as of Mar 21 2020 01:24 PM

Here's an initiative that would hopefully catch on among businesses and communities amid the month-long enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

Popburri, a Popsicle shop and restaurant in Quezon City, converts parts of its premises into a shelter for the homeless amid the island-wide lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Since March 19, the shop has been accepting the homeless so they have a place to sleep (6pm to 6am the next day), eat dinner and breakfast at a certain schedule, freshen up, and do laundry at the store, enough time and space for the "public safety hours" or curfew hours imposed by the Quezon City government to pass. 

"We wanted them to have a place to do the most basic thing, which was wash their hands. They keep saying that's the most important thing for all of us to do. But what if you don't have a sink, you don't have running water? How are you going to do the most basic thing required?" business owner Maria Camille Dowling Ibanes said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.

On the first night, they were able to take in nine people, mostly scrap collectors. 

As Dowling expected, more arrived on the second night, with some stranded construction workers and jobseekers who heard about the cafe-turned-shelter. 

Arriving visitors are immediately given alcohol and a foot wash solution. Ibanes is also giving her best effort in enforcing other social distancing guidelines under the quarantine. After 6 a.m., the place is cleaned and disinfected, and food is again prepared for the next batch to arrive in the evening. 

The initiative has attracted generous responses from customers and neighbors, who have been providing food, mattresses and sleeping mats, toiletries, and cash. Others have also volunteered to help out. 

Dowling hopes mattress companies and a nearby hardware store can open so they can purchase materials to augment the current setup.

The barangay has also been supportive and lauded the effort, providing medical supplies and security as the visitors rest for the night. They're also making the efforts of addressing the quarantine guidelines with the store's initiative.

Barangay East Kamias Kagawad Julius Sevilla of echoed Ibanez’s concern on providing the homeless a venue to practice hygiene. 

“What is better? To house them, feed them, make sure they wash their hands, make sure they eat, they shower or practice social distancing, dun nga hiwa-hiwalay sila pero the hygiene is not good? So we have to weigh things," said Sevilla said as he dropped off a supply of chicken at the shelter. 

"Siguro we have to control na lang, we have to discipline, maybe innovate something para ma-practice natin 'yung hinihingi ng gobyerno na social distancing, we'll work it out. We'll try our best," 

Dowling hopes their efforts would serve as a 'spark-plug' for the good of the community.

"If there's anything that we've learned, we're just a spark-plug for everyone else's hope, love, and concern for their fellow Filipino. We just hope that businesses can do it in their own communities and if we stay within our communities and uplift the people that we can and fill in the spaces even within our small circles, our families our churches, I think we can get through this."

Popburri owner Camille Dowling Ibanes chats with a family that will stay for the night. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Popburri, a community store and restaurant in Quezon City, converts parts of its premises into a homeless shelter amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Visitors settle in as Popburri opens for the night. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Food donations arrive at Popburri. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Popburri employees set up chairs for dinner. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

A visitor comes out of the bathroom after taking a shower. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Popburri owner Maria Camille Dowling Ibanes distributes toiletries to visitors staying for the night. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Popburri owner Maria Camille Dowling Ibanes chats with a visitor stranded in Metro Manila amid the enhanced community quarantine Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

More visitors arrive at Popburri. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Food is distributed to visitors staying for the night at Popburri. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Food is distributed to visitors staying for the night at Popburri. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Barangay Kagawad Julius Sevilla reminds visitors of proper decorum as they stay at Popburri. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Visitors prepare for bed as they stay at Popburri for the night. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News