Non-Profits Struggle to Open Sites for Homeless COVID-19 Patients

Homelessness organizations across the Oklahoma City metro are collaborating to create alternative-care homeless shelters.

“While everyone is at risk of contracting the virus, people experiencing homelessness are faced with unique challenges,” said Kinsey Crocker, communications director for the Homeless Alliance. “Without a home, people are unable to properly hunker down and do not have access to running water.”

Crocker said social distancing isn’t easy because people have to gather in congregate environments for necessities like food and hygiene.

“Additionally, many people we serve struggle with chronic health conditions,” Crocker said.

She said in recent weeks, the Homeless Alliance has had to completely change the way they operate in order to provide services.

“We are delivering food and supplies to the doorsteps of our most vulnerable housed clients,” Crocker said. “We are continuing to provide meals to people who visit our day shelter, but have shifted to to-go meals as it is no longer safe to have 350 plus people in a building.”

Crocker said the Homeless Alliance is working with multiple agencies, including the Mental Health Association, Hope Community Services and Goodwill to provide food, supplies and educational materials to people who are not sheltered.

According to a statement by City Rescue Mission, local emergency homeless shelters and health officials are working to create two temporary alternative-care homeless shelter sites in Oklahoma City.

“These facilities will help to prevent community spread of COVID-19 among the vulnerable population of people experiencing homelessness in the city,” the statement said.

The alternative shelters were planned to open March 27, but according to the City Rescue Mission, the openings have been delayed due to staffing shortages. They now say the shelters will be open within the next couple of weeks.

Crocker said the Homeless Alliance is currently working with one man who has tested positive for COVID-19. They are keeping him quarantined in a hotel and delivering food to him.

She said they are still working with many health organizations to hasten the opening of the alternative-care health shelters to send likely and confirmed patients to, but have run into roadblocks not only with staffing but also funding. 

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