Organizations change the way they serve the homeless amid COVID-19 pandemic

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Organizations are changing the way they serve the homeless amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At City Rescue Mission, they’re opening up part of their shelter to isolate people who are suspected to have COVID-19 or to have tested positive for the virus.

Everyone who comes in is screened. All staff members wear masks and gloves and get their temperatures checked as well.

“All of our clients are wearing masks. We’re encouraging frequent hand washing. We’re only allowing them to leave the building for essential services,” Erin Goodin, president/CEO of City Rescue Mission, said.

She also says they’ve seen a slight decrease in the number of clients.

“A lot those who had family, they could stayed with [us], took advantage of that opportunity especially during this time period. We expect to see a pretty large increase as soon as the shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted,” she said.

The Homeless Alliance closed their day shelter, but they’re still giving out grab-and-go meals and hygiene kits, along with information about COVID-19.

Executive Director Dan Straughan says they’ve increased the size of their street outreach efforts fivefold, bringing meals and supplies to more than 100 homeless camps throughout the city.

“One of the things that happened early on with the virus, is the city stopped clearing camps, and forcing people to move because it was just driving people from isolation into big congregated environments like at a homeless shelter, and that didn’t make good sense from an epidemiological perspective,” Straughan said.
Both Straughan and Goodin say people on the streets are less likely to get the virus.

“We are probably more at risk at giving the virus to them than them giving it to us,” Goodin said.

While shelters have had to change the way they operate, there are still resources for help.

“If you got recently evicted or maybe you were staying with a friend for awhile and the friend got worried you might have the virus and kicked you out, call 2-1-1,” Straughan said.

For more information on The Homeless Alliance, click here. For City Rescue Mission, click here.

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