Ivan Shapiro House Program Director Marcos Campos runs a two-front operation. There is the skill-building he oversees when dealing with clients, and the no-less-integral operational work he makes happen backstage. The goal of the former is to equip residents with the tools and skills necessary for independent living. The aim of the latter is to keep the residence, just west of Times Square in Manhattan, well-maintained and secure.

“Many clients need to be taught skills that most of us find effortless,” says Marcos, a father of three who lives in the Hudson Valley. “Medication management is a biggie, a skill set that includes understanding side effects and remembering to pick up refills. Basic financial literacy is another goalpost, with clients coached to budget their funds and, a major milestone, open personal bank accounts.”

A hallmark of the 54-resident Ivan Shapiro House is a robust client-staff rapport. “The foundation of our work is client engagement,” says Marcos. At times, this requires innovative approaches to engage clients, especially when working with mentally-ill individuals.

If Marcos’ professional life is multifaceted in general, the coronavirus brought exponential growth as well.

“At the height of the crisis, we were brainstorming on how to stay in touch with clients, while finding the right tech to do so, while running workshops over conference calls, while creating activity booklets for clients, while scrambling to provide them and staff with protective equipment.”

Lately, he reports, things have cooled down—at least somewhat. Masks and hand sanitizer are still the norm at Ivan Shapiro House and other program sites. Clients are encouraged to opt for stairs over elevators to reduce crowding. And the common room, recently reopened, requires strict social distancing.

“Clients have been very compliant,” Marcos says of the Ivan Shapiro House population, which is comprised of people who are all-too-familiar with adversity. As a result, they recognize coronavirus for the menace it is, so most follow safety guidelines to the letter.

Before COVID-19 and after, one thing for Marcos remains the same: “My clients are at once my biggest challenge and my biggest motivator,” he says. The going may not always be smooth, but when a client rushes over to show Marcos his first-ever debit card … or to share a health milestone attained…or to quietly thank Marcos for being there in a time of need, nothing is more rewarding.