Monday, April 20, 2020

Homeless shelters expand services due to COVID-19

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 2:35 PM

click to enlarge Salvation Army, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado and Fuel Church launched a food truck that will serve hot meals through April. - COURTESY OF THE SALVATION ARMY EL PASO COUNTY
  • Courtesy of The Salvation Army El Paso County
  • Salvation Army, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado and Fuel Church launched a food truck that will serve hot meals through April.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the city's two largest low-barrier shelters remain open to help meet the new needs of a vulnerable population: the unhoused residents of Colorado Springs.

The Springs Rescue Mission, which operates the city's largest homeless shelter, has seen "a dramatic increase in the amount of people that we’re serving during the day," says Chief Development Officer Travis Williams.

In recent weeks, up to twice as many people as usual have been seeking services at the Rescue Mission's day shelter,
which provides laundry services, showers and access to partner agencies who can help individuals with food, employment and other assistance.

That could be due in part to other locations, such as the Pikes Peak Library District, being closed during the daytime hours.

Springs Rescue Mission has been able to continue much of its job training and case management during the pandemic, Williams says: "There’s such a resiliency among our staff and the guests."

But the shelter could use donations of homemade masks for shelter guests and staff, as well as bath towels and laundry detergent pods to assist people using the shower and laundry facilities, Williams adds.


click to enlarge The Salvation Army Mobile Kitchen stops at Westside Cares on Mondays and Fridays, and at Sacred Heart Church on Wednesdays. - COURTESY OF THE SALVATION ARMY EL PASO COUNTY
  • Courtesy of The Salvation Army El Paso County
  • The Salvation Army Mobile Kitchen stops at Westside Cares on Mondays and Fridays, and at Sacred Heart Church on Wednesdays.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army Shelter & Services at RJ Montgomery has allowed single women and their children to stay at its family shelter — which normally closes every morning for cleaning — during the day.

After schools closed, says Capt. Doug Hanson, executive director of The Salvation Army El Paso County, "we were just having mom walking around the streets with child ... After one day of that, that ended. So now we feed lunch at the shelter and we have the families in there."

The Salvation Army has also had staff from its after-school center main campus come to the shelter three days a week to engage children in activities, Hanson says, and give the moms a break. The shelter has improved its internet connection so more kids can learn remotely.

Many people who've managed to subsist by finding food discarded at restaurant locations, or by panhandling for cash, no longer have easily accessible means for survival. The Salvation Army has started collaborating with other local nonprofits to serve hot meals out of a mobile kitchen as a response to that gap.


Hanson says he hasn't seen much of an uptick in the use of the Salvation Army's showers, but he notes that the shelter has nearly run out of hand sanitizer, and people appear to be washing their hands more frequently.

"Soap and paper towels were consumed at a higher rate at the shelter over the last month," Hanson says.

As far as referrals to the homeless isolation shelter — set up at the City Auditorium — Williams on April 17 said that Springs Rescue Mission had referred around 13 people, many of whom were assessed by medical staff and determined not likely to have COVID-19. The Salvation Army had referred a "whopping one person" as of April 17, Hanson says.

Hanson adds that he believes some people who are showing flu-like symptoms characteristic of COVID-19 are avoiding the Salvation Army's shelter altogether — including one man who went to a local emergency department and was turned away because his condition wasn't severe enough to warrant a hospital stay.

"The hospital was warning us [the man was] coming to our shelter, and so our staff was on the lookout for this client and we were going to put them in a hotel to make sure that they didn’t infect other people in the unlikely event they actually had [COVID-19]," Hanson explains.

"It was never confirmed, and they never showed up, and the client themselves, we found out days later — because we were like, 'Where’d that guy go?' — checked himself in to a cheaper hotel and stayed there for a few days."

Read more about the homeless isolation shelter at the City Auditorium in our April 22 issue.

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