Homeless during a pandemic: The challenge to self-isolate and stay protected from COVID-19

Homeless during a pandemic: The challenge to self-isolate and stay protected from COVID-19

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Many throughout the community and the entire world are choosing to self-isolate as we continue to combat the spread of the coronavirus, but this can be challenging for people who don’t have a place to call home. The Transitions Homeless Center in Columbia is determined to continue serving those in need, and are now implementing some changes to keep clients safe.

A sign on the front door of the center instructs everyone entering the building to immediately use hand sanitizer, which is provided at the entrance and at several other areas of the building.

Management is also working to restructure the way meals are serve by having people spread out while in line and offering extended lunch and dinner hours to cut down on the number of people gathering to eat at one time.

Each night, Transitions houses about 260 overnight clients, and during the day this number grows to about 350 people who use their day services.

Craig Currey, the president and CEO of the Transitions Homeless Center, says that recently their numbers have gone up.

“Really, around the city now, some places have closed. So, those homeless folks are coming to Transitions, and so our numbers have gone up. So, we’re trying to measure that and watch that, but we want to feed people," Currey said.

A lot of the feeding operations, right now, have been suspended. So, it’s a matter of trying to meet people’s needs and still do the prudent things that the CDC has recommended, which we’re all about that.”

Currey says the goal is to remain open, but there are concerns about what to do if a client tests positive for coronavirus. Getting clients tested has been an even bigger challenge.

“There’s a problem with those that have been exposed, and so, we’re not even sure how we’re going to know that because a lot of our folks haven’t traveled. They haven’t gone to China or Italy. So, they may not qualify for the test. So, they display some flu-like symptoms, but we’re not really sure and we don’t know,” Currey said.

At this time, Transitions is not equipped to quarantine anyone, but the team is now working with city officials to develop a plan.

Currey says, now more than ever, the facility is in need of donations to help provide cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and plastic wear. Staff members are also in need of thermometers and protective gear, like face masks.

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