by Karen Oeding, Website Administrator
I’ve added two resources to the COVID-19 page.
Daily Beast on 5/4/2020 by Kate Briquelet
(The article is free as part of The Daily Beast Coronavirus coverage)
Authorities nationwide are reporting an uptick in fatal opioid overdoses during social distancing.
Lynn sat in the parking lot of her opioid treatment clinic in Columbus, Ohio, for hours on a recent Tuesday. Like in other parts of the country, the coronavirus pandemic was leading to longer wait times for medication—in this case, Suboxone.
Around her, people idled in their cars or stood in a smoking area until the doctor called them inside via text message. The process to get treatment took nearly four hours. “I was worried COVID might escalate more. I didn’t want to be dependent on something that I wouldn’t be able to get all of a sudden,” said the 30-year-old, who asked to be identified only by her middle name. “I kind of weaned myself off Suboxone. That led to an overdose.”
Lynn has struggled with heroin addiction since 2018. She said she hadn’t used opioids for three months, until she was hit by the stresses and isolation of COVID-19, which public health officials fear may be contributing to relapses in Ohio’s recovery community and beyond. Lynn thought she could taper off doses of Suboxone, a drug containing buprenorphine that’s used to treat opiate addiction, in case the pandemic caused more roadblocks for her treatment.
But on a Saturday night in late March, Lynn overdosed at her apartment after using heroin laced with fentanyl. When her boyfriend realized the blow dryer was running for a long time, he shoved through the bathroom door and found her, then administered Narcan, a brand of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone. “As soon as I took one puzzle piece out of place,” she said, “the whole thing fell apart.” Continue reading →
The Indiana Lawyer on 5/1/2020 by Indianapolis Business Journal Staff and Lindsey Erdody
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he will ease social distancing restrictions in all but three counties starting Monday.
In a new executive order released Friday that goes into effect Monday and lasts through May 23, retailers — including malls — will be allowed to open at 50% capacity; manufacturers not currently operating will be permitted to do so; offices can have employees return but are encouraged to continue remote work when possible; public libraries can open; and the essential travel restrictions will be lifted.
“We are ready to move ahead in a measured way,” Holcomb said Friday in a statewide address.
Common areas in malls will be restricted to 25% capacity to avoid large gatherings of people.
Social gatherings of up to 25 people will also be allowed — up from the previous 10-person limitation.
Holcomb’s current stay-at-home order, which allowed elective medical procedures to resume but maintained all of the other restrictions, is set to expire at midnight. The directives from that order will remain in effect until the new guidelines are in place on Monday.
All of the new guidelines are part of “Stage 2” of Holcomb’s five-part plan to completely reopen the state by July 4.
But Holcomb’s guidance allows local municipalities to have stricter policies in place, so the new measures will not apply to Marion County, which is under a stay-home-order issued by Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett until May 15.
The executive order says Marion and Lake counties will not move to Stage 2 until May 11. Cass County, where an outbreak at the Tyson plant has caused a spike in COVID-19 cases, will not be in Stage 2 until May 18.
Stage 2 also encourages, but does not require, all Hoosiers to wear face masks in public and urges those who are 65 and older or have underlying health conditions to remain at home whenever possible.
Employees in some industries, such as personal care services and restaurants, will be required to wear masks, though.
The one change that will apply statewide affects churches and religious places of worship, which are allowed to resume in-person services May 8. The 25-person social gathering restriction will not apply to those places, but the administration is suggesting social distancing and health safety practices, like hand washing and hand sanitizer, be practiced.
After a county has been in Stage 2 for one week, starting May 11 for most of the state, personal services businesses such as hair salons and barber shops can open by appointment only and restaurants and bars serving food can open at 50% capacity.
Bars and nightclubs, however, are expected to remain closed until June 14, when Stage 4 begins.
Visits to nursing homes will continue to be prohibited during this stage.
Gyms and fitness centers, casinos, sports venues, museums, zoos, movie theaters, parks and community swimming pools will also remain closed.
The administration plans to keep its Enforcement Response Team in place to investigate complaints of businesses not complying. As of Thursday, state officials had investigated 1,264 complaints and issued 115 verbal warnings.
Holcomb’s administration considered four main criteria before drafting the executive order — the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide (which has been trending downward); the number of intensive care unit hospital beds and ventilators available; the state’s ability to test individuals with symptoms and essential workers; and having a contract tracing plan in place.
Earlier this week, the state announced a partnership with OptumServe to open 50 new testing sites by mid-May, and the state is working with Virginia-based Maximus Inc. to open a 500-person call center to conduct contract tracing.
Assuming the state continues to have enough ICU beds and ventilators available and testing and contract tracing goes well, Stage 3 would begin May 24 and could apply statewide.
In that phase, gyms and fitness centers and playgrounds could open, movie theaters could operate at 50% capacity, retail stores and malls could increase to 75% capacity and social gatherings of up to 100 people would be allowed.
Stage 4 would begin June 14 and could include allowing malls and retailers to have full capacity, increasing restaurant capacity to 75%, letting bars and nightclubs open with 50% capacity, opening zoos and museums at 50% capacity and allowing large venues to open.
At that point, social gatherings could increase to a maximum of 250 people.
Stage 5 would begin July 4 and would essentially lift all remaining restrictions, which would mean sporting events, conventions, festivals and fairs could all occur.
It’s uncertain when riverboat casinos and horse-track racing casinos could open. The administration is working with the Indiana Gaming Commission and Indiana Horse Racing Commission to determine those dates.
Holcomb will extend the public health emergency order that is set to expire May 4.
The state also was expected to reveal plans on Friday to open a marketplace to help facilitate personal protective equipment purchases for small businesses and not-for-profits with fewer than 150 employees.
POPAI Note: More information at Back on Track Indiana
CNN on 4/25/2020 by Alisha Ebrahimji
Interview with Anderson Cooper
“I love you guys with all my heart and you’ve given me the best life I could have ever asked for.”
That’s the beginning of a goodbye note one woman found on her husband’s phone after he died from coronavirus this week.
Jonathan Coelho, [probation officer] 32, passed away on April 22 after a 28-day battle in the hospital and 20 days on a ventilator, his wife, Katie Coelho told CNN.
Now she’s processing the sudden grief, and wondering how their two young children will react.
“They don’t know that they lost the greatest human being and they’ll only know their dad through pictures and videos,” she said Friday night on Anderson Cooper’s show.
Jonathan seemed to be getting better, she said, and doctors had discussed taking him off the ventilator last Thursday or Friday.
But early Wednesday morning Katie said she got a call from a nurse at the hospital in Danbury, Connecticut asking her to make her way over.
By the time she got there, Jonathan had passed away from cardiac arrest caused by his coronavirus symptoms. She didn’t get to say goodbye.
And even though the couple didn’t get the proper farewell they deserved, Jonathan left something special for Katie to discover in his absence.
Click here for videos and to continue reading the article.
NPR on 04/29/2020 by Rachel Martin & Heidi Glenn
Vinton County, Ohio, has been on the front lines of the opioid crisis in the U.S. for several years. The drugs may have changed over the years — from opioids to meth — but the devastating effects on families have not. And even though the county hasn’t had high infection rates of the coronavirus, the necessary social restrictions have made it harder to keep people addicted to drugs and their children safe.
Vinton is Ohio’s least-populated county. When it comes to its response to the coronavirus pandemic, it mirrors what’s happening across the nation. Vinton County schools are not in session, most churches remain closed and restaurants are either closed or open only for take-out orders.
“So even here with our normal level of isolation it’s a lot different for even us,” says Trecia Kimes-Brown, Vinton County’s prosecutor.
In 2018, NPR went to Vinton County to report on its struggle with opioids and meth and the effect of having an addicted parent on children. Then, Kimes-Brown told NPR that for households where people were making meth, kids were “living in these environments where they’re not being fed. They’re not being clothed properly. They’re not being sent to school. They’re being mistreated.”
Now, with social distancing measures in place in Vinton County and schools and churches closed, teachers and clergy — those who are the likeliest to come in contact with abused children — aren’t, so they can’t report cases of abuse. Kimes-Brown says that she suspects that’s behind recent reductions in child abuse reports nationwide. “We’ve lost all those connections with our kids,” she says.
Teachers in Vinton County are trying to connect with families by phone, she says. She hopes that others, such as neighbors or mail carriers — those who might be in more contact with children during the pandemic — report suspected child abuse cases.
“I don’t think people realize how much information one report can provide,” she says. “There are so many cases that I could say have been decided or made because an eyewitness came across the tiniest bit of information and reported it.”
Kimes-Brown says the county is still struggling with what she calls a “horrible” meth problem and is also seeing more abuse of fentanyl and carfentanil. “The fentanyl use is deadly,” she says.
And with the introduction of COVID-19, she says, there’s more stress on households already dealing with addiction. “And I think we’re just seeing the beginning of it – with job loss, unemployment, people are depressed, their kids can’t go to school, they can’t go to AA, they can’t go to NA because those meetings are canceled. They can’t go to their normal support groups.”
The Indy Channel RTV6 on 4/16/2020 by Tom Maccabe
So, special “care packs” are being sent.
Care packs ready to go in Bloomington
BLOOMINGTON — At the Monroe Circuit Court Probation Office, Juvenile Division, there is no “business as usual” these days.
Chief Probation Officer Linda Brady says virtual and telephone appointments have replaced face-to-face connections between probation officers and the juveniles they are assigned to.
Because of that, Brady says isolation and loneliness can set in. So, the probation office is doing something to show they care.
“Care packages” for youth, to let them know their probation officers care about their wellbeing are being delivered this week. Inside is a variety of items, including snacks, candy, playing cards, and brainteasers.
The care packages were purchased using funds from the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative grant.
“Typically, grant funds have been utilized to enhance programs, provide training, and support more traditional probation rehabilitative efforts,” said Monroe County Judge Stephen Galvin. “However, given the disruption so many face during this COVID 19 pandemic, the Juvenile Probation Officers felt that a small portion of these grant funds should be utilized to maintain connections with the youth and families they serve.”
Juvenile Probation Officer Debbie Wray said, “During periods of intense life difficulties, it is even more important for our clients to know they matter. As probation officers we can be that standard of measurement which shows how much they matter.”
Juvenile Probation Officer Nicholas Ackerman stated, “Now more than ever, it is imperative that juvenile probation officers, and all youth workers across the country, work to reinforce their relationships with their clients. This is an opportunity to show our kids, and our community, that we are more than just court orders and probation requirements. We are a support system, a helping hand, a steady voice in the midst of so much chaos and uncertainty”
WBIW on 4/14/2020
Lawrence County Juvenile Referee Anah Hewetson Gouty
(BEDFORD) – In early February 2020 Justice Steven H. David of the Indiana Supreme Court, Chair of the Executive Committee for the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI), sent a letter to Indiana judges seeking interest and commitment to the JDAI initiative.
Lawrence County Juvenile Referee, Anah Hewetson Gouty, submitted a Statement of Interest for Lawrence County to be considered as a site for the Indiana Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI).
JDAI is a model for youth justice system improvement that was developed by the Juvenile Justice Strategist Group of the Annie E. Casey Foundation approximately thirty years ago. At its core, JDAI is a public safety initiative that focuses on limiting use of pre-adjudication secure detention while ensuring the alternative placements and procedures are safe and appropriate to meet the needs of the youth.
Indiana has adapted and evolved the JDAI model to provide opportunities for improvement at all decision points from contact with law enforcement through placement in out-of-home care and post-placement return to the community.
Indiana JDAI has demonstrated outstanding public safety outcomes, says Gouty.
Comparing 2018 data to each counties’ baseline year (the year before implementing JDAI), thirty-one sites collectively experienced a 63% decrease in admissions to secure detention, a 50% decrease in felony petitions filed, and a 60% decrease in commitments to the Department of Correction.
“The efforts have resulted in savings to taxpayers, improved efficiencies in the operations of the youth justice system, and better outcomes for youth and their families,” she added.
“The Lawrence County Probation Department does an excellent job at assessing juveniles’ needs for detention or other placements while also balancing the community’s safety concerns when making recommendations to the Court for placement of juveniles; however, Lawrence County’s consideration as an Indiana JDAI site means more funding and more opportunities to provide services to youth and families,” Gouty added.
JDAI sites receive training opportunities in best practices for the youth justice system, access to networks of state and national experts, and technical assistance from a team of Juvenile Justice Strategists.
Judge Nathan G. Nikirk of the Lawrence Circuit Court, Judge Anah Hewetson Gouty, Lawrence County Chief Probation Officer Nedra Brock-Fleetwood, as well as the Assistant Chief Probation Officer, Scott Wedgewood, announce Katie Messmann, the JDAI Coordinator for Lawrence County.
Brock-Fleetwood, Wedgewood, and Messmann will draft a grant application and submit by July 1, 2020, to ensure Lawrence County’s funding for the initiative.
The Indiana Lawyer on 4/21/20 by Dave Stafford
The man accused of shooting two Indiana judges in a May 1 morning melee in a downtown Indianapolis White Castle parking lot is asking a judge to unseal evidence — including surveillance video of the incident — that his attorneys say is critical to his claim that he acted in self-defense. The state counters that the request is meritless.
2021 Minimum Salary Schedule for Probation Officers
USA Today on 1/31/2020 by Trevor Hughes and Stephanie Innes
Early one morning in March, Madison McIntosh showed up on his day off at the Scottsdale, Arizona, driving range and restaurant where he worked. The 24-year-old sat in his car until the place opened, then wandered around all day, alternating between gibberish and talk of suicide as co-workers tried to keep him away from customers.
When he was still there 12 hours later, the manager contacted McIntosh’s father in Las Vegas, who called police and rallied other family members states away to converge at the young man’s side.
They found a shell of the once-star baseball player. For months, he’d been vaping a potent form of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes people feel high, and staying up all night. He swung wildly between depression and euphoria.
The family rushed McIntosh to Banner Behavioral Health Hospital, where staff psychiatrist Divya Jot Singh diagnosed him with cannabis use disorder and a “psychotic disorder unspecified.”
Singh expects to make McIntosh’s diagnosis official soon. If he remains off pot and symptom-free a year after the episode, the psychiatrist can say with certainty he suffered from “cannabis-induced psychosis.” Continue reading →
Probation Officer Donald Knepple was shot and killed on April 28, 1997 after being ambushed by a man at a counseling center on South Calhoun Street in Fort Wayne.
The suspect, a former juvenile corrections officer who had been convicted of attempted child molestation, had arranged a meeting with his counselor and Probation Officer Knepple with the intent of murdering them both. As the meeting took place at about 10:00 am, the suspect fatally shot both of them in the head before he fled to the rear of the center and committed suicide. At the time of the incident Probation Officer Knepple, like other officers in his department, were not armed.
Probation Officer Knepple had served with the Allen County Adult Probation Department for 12 years. He was a US Army veteran of the Vietnam War and an Air National Guard reservist. Probation Officer Knepple was survived by his wife, 16-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter.
WFYI Indianapolis on 4/13/2020 by Adam Pinsker
Ten prisoners in state Department of Correction facilities have now tested positive for COVID-19, along with 20 agency employees, prompting questions to WFIU’s City Limits: Coronavirus about how social distancing measures are being implemented in prisons and county jails.
Since the middle of March, inmates entering the Monroe County Jail in Bloomington have been monitored for any signs of sickness.
“We have a men’s quarantine and a women’s quarantine cell block, so we monitor them, and quarantine them for 14 days,” Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain says. Swain says jail staff ask new inmates where they’ve been in the days leading up to their incarceration.
They ask if you’ve been out of the country, if you have a high fever, things like that,” Swain says.
The Indiana Department of Correction declined our request for an interview to discuss the types of precautions it was taking.
But at a news conference on April 3, IDOC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kristen Dauss acknowledged corrections staff were stepping up their efforts after the first cases of Covid-19 were reported behind bars.
“We are also encouraging handwashing, soap, cough hygiene, we are providing them with hand sanitizer, deep cleaning the facilities, so I can assure you that we are doing all that we can for those we serve,” Dr. Dauss said.
On April 6, IDOC emailed WFIU a link to a March 3 memo titled “Pandemic Preparedness and Response plan.”
Some of the recommendations include separating ill offenders, implementing social distancing when a few offenders are ill, and setting up isolation housing units when a substantial number of inmates become ill.
The document does not specify what constitutes a “substantial number.” Prison watchdog group Indiana Prison Advocates is skeptical that these safety measures are being practiced in every correctional facility.
“We’re getting reports that there are sick inmates and they’re not being tested, they’re still free to roam about with other inmates, they’re not being quarantined at all,” the group’s president, Kelly Miller, says.
Miller says the state should test the sickest inmate for COVID-19, which could determine if the whole cell block has the virus.
“We’re concerned about the guards as well, catching it and taking it home, spreading it around their communities too,” she adds.
In Monroe County, Swain says each jail deputy or staff member has their temperature taken when reporting for work.
“Because the courts aren’t in operation, our staffing is low, so we are allowing some to take time off to mitigate,” Swain says.
The sheriff says cells and common areas are sanitized whenever inmates leave those areas to take a shower or eat; practices that have been in place since the H1N1 pandemic more than a decade ago.
Co-pays for inmates at the Monroe County Jail are being waived to encourage them to get medical attention if they don’t feel well, and every inmate is being assigned a bar of soap and/or hand sanitizer.
But the sheriff says those precautions only go so far. “I have concerns that in the future, if this becomes really bad we’ll be having to operate a hospital with ventilators here in the jail, simply because there will be no place to take them,” Swain says.
Attorney General Curtis Hill released a statement saying he opposes efforts by the American Civil Liberties Union to release inmates from prisons and have them stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Indiana Supreme Court rejected a request by the ACLU to engage in “emergency rule making” to enable certain inmates to leave jails and go home during the pandemic.
Hill says only the governor’s office, not the attorney general, can make that decision, according to the state’s Constitution.
Indiana Department of Correction on 4/17/2020
Indianapolis, Ind – On the day IMPD Officer Breann Leath was laid to rest Governor Eric Holcomb announced the Wee Ones Nursery at the Indiana Women’s Prison would be renamed as the ‘Officer Breann Leath Memorial Maternal & Child Health Unit.’
The announcement was made by Gov. Eric Holcomb at the beginning of his daily coronavirus pandemic press briefing at 2:30 this afternoon in his Statehouse office. Prior to inviting Dept. of Correction Commissioner Rob Carter to speak, Governor Holcomb spoke to Ofc. Leath being an incredible human being, who also had a profound impact on everyone she came in contact with. Gov. Holcomb also spoke about her influence on fellow coworkers as well as offenders during her service as a correctional officer at the Indiana Women’s Prison. Commissioner Carter then spoke to Breann’s commitment to the babies born at the women’s prison and how she helped care for them as though they were her own. Then Comm. Carter and the IDOC Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kristen Dauss made the name change official with the presentation of a memorial poster with Breann’s picture proclaiming the new name of the child health unit. Most fitting about today’s announcement was that today, April 16, 2020 was the 12th anniversary of the unit’s opening; a fitting tribute to the memory of Officer Breann Leath.
Later in the afternoon several of Breann’s former co-workers from the IDOC visited her patrol car and participated in the community balloon release to commemorate Breann’s life and commitment to public service. Among those to attend was a current IDOC employee, Maggie Bryant, who serves as the Indiana Women’s Prison Pubic Information Officer. Ms. Bryant commented, “Officer Leath was a true example of an officer dedicated not only to safety and security of the prison infant unit, but also exemplified the goal to help incarcerated women become good mothers before leaving prison by making the IDOC mission her mission.” Ms. Bryant concluded, “All of us who knew Breann were heartbroken over her senseless death and want her family and IMPD coworkers to know Breann will not be forgotten.” Continue reading →
Associated Press on 04/16/2020 by Rick Callahan
An Indianapolis police officer who was fatally shot while responding to a domestic violence call was remembered Thursday during her funeral as a dedicated, compassionate officer and a devoted young mother, with a police chaplain calling her “a beautiful flower that was picked way too soon.”
Numerous speakers, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, spoke during the service for Officer Breann “Bre” Leath, 24, which was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in adherence with pandemic social distancing rules that limited Leath’s family and guests to no more than 10 people per speedway suite.
Hundreds of police cars lined the track as officers watched a livestream of the service on cellphones and laptops. Officers wearing face masks later stood next to their vehicles, lights flashing, and saluted during a playing of taps that preceded a planned procession through downtown Indianapolis.
Police Chief Randal Taylor told mourners that Leath, who joined the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s nearly 1,700-office force in December 2017 and was fatally shot April 9, had “courageously stood her post, representing what’s best in society.”
“By simply putting on the uniform she made the world a better place,” he said.
Holcomb, who directed that flags across Marion County be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Thursday, said Leath’s death was “a stinging reminder of the risk that those who wear the uniform face every day.”
Tiana Leath, one of the slain officer’s two sisters, offered a heartfelt remembrance, saying she looked up to her older sister even though as children she was bossy and wanted to run things. She recalled that Bre had shown her just two weeks ago how to make her “famous mac and cheese” recipe, and said her late sister was a source of encouragement.
“She had a way of making you think, `You know what, I really can do better. I want more for myself,’” Tiana Leath said, calling her sister “compassionate, determined, God-fearing and beautiful.”
“I’m going to make you proud. Most definitely,” she said, speaking of her sister.
Tiana Leath said Bre, who was the mother a 3-year-old son, Zayn, was an “amazing” dedicated mother and promised that she and her family would shower him with love.
“I want to you know Bre that Zayn will get so much love and kisses and tickles that you’re going to be jealous,” she said, choking up with tears.
Police chaplain Patricia Holman called Leath “a beautiful flower that was picked way too soon.”
Previous funerals for fallen Indianapolis officers have been held in recent years at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the change of venue and social distancing restrictions.
A funeral procession was scheduled to leave the speedway and travel past police headquarters, the Marion County Sheriff’s Department headquarters, downtown Indianapolis’ Monument Circle and the Indianapolis police East District headquarters before proceeding to Crown Hill Cemetery for burial.
Leath was shot to death through an apartment’s door while responding with three other officers to a domestic violence call, police said. Elliahs Dorsey, 27, is charged with murder, criminal confinement and four counts of attempted murder.
Route Fifty on 4/6/2020 by Teresa Wiltz
Homeless shelters are running out of money, supplies and staff.
For years, the Harbor House shelter had a routine for feeding and sheltering the hundreds of homeless people in Thousand Oaks, California, many of them elderly. Each evening, one of a dozen local churches, temples and mosques would host a dinner, and afterward, lay out beds for their guests to have a safe place to sleep.
COVID-19 has turned that routine upside down.
The host places of worship were worried about safety, especially since many of their volunteers also are elderly. All the houses of worship shuttered entirely, and with that, the dinner and bed routine was over. It wasn’t safe for either the volunteers or the guests, said Denise Cortes, Harbor House’s executive director.
“It’s a scary and devastating experience,” Cortes said. “We’re already dealing with people living on the fringes of life. And now they’re hanging by a thread.”
Like Harbor House, other homeless shelters around the country are being pushed to the brink by the pandemic. Even in the best of times, some 568,000 people live in shelters, on the streets or in a car. And now, shelters in at least 17 states plus Washington, D.C., have been forced to close, suspend services or otherwise limit their operations, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“We’re all supposed to be staying at home. But this virus didn’t end homelessness. There are still people that need our help.”
Doug Morris, executive director FAMILY PROMISE OF LUBBOCK, TEXAS
Yet the dangers to homeless people infected with COVID-19 are significant: They are twice as likely to be hospitalized, two to four times more likely to require critical care and two to three times as likely to die from the virus than the general population, according to a new report by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California Los Angeles and Boston University.
The researchers estimate that 40% of the homeless population will eventually become infected — and the cost for their care will total $11.5 billion this year.
Homeless service providers say they’re quickly running out of space, staff, volunteers, cleaning supplies — and money.
“Shelters are closing because they don’t have the resources to keep the doors open or to safely operate in a way that keeps residents and staff safe,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
At the same time, some cities are opening new shelters. San Diego last week opened an ad hoc shelter for up to 1,500 people in its convention center, using the cavernous space so the city’s homeless population can practice social distancing and have greater access to services.
Last week, Las Vegas began construction on a temporary isolation and quarantine facility, which is expected to house more than 300 homeless people who are either positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms associated with the virus.
And homeless people from the greater Cincinnati area, on the Ohio border, are hunkered down in the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, where they can get medical care and room and board.
Philadelphia is taking over a downtown hotel to quarantine homeless people who’ve been infected by the virus.
And two weeks ago, the Central Arizona Shelter Services, the state’s largest adult homeless shelter, began isolating homeless seniors and those with disabilities in special shelters to protect them from exposure to the virus, said CEO Lisa Glow. Some of the dorm rooms fit as many as 150 people.
“We were flipping mattresses so people could sleep head to toe,” Glow said. “It wasn’t sufficient.”
In Sacramento, California, the Union Gospel Mission closed its men’s emergency shelter and dining room March 21 and stopped accepting new clients for its men’s rehabilitation program to follow social distancing guidelines.
“Obviously, it didn’t feel good,” said Pastor Tim Lane, executive director of the Union Gospel Mission. “But it was a decision I had to make. I had to keep them safe.”
The shelter is still housing 30 men who are enrolled in the rehab program, according to Lane.
Grab-and-go meals are still available, and men can come in for staggered showers. Most of the men the mission has turned away camp along the river, so Lane and his staff make sure they have extra blankets, sleeping bags and tarps.
“I’m just grateful this didn’t happen in December,” Lane said.
In the Denver suburbs, the Severe Weather Shelter Network, which houses homeless people during the region’s massive snowstorms, had to close in March because of a drop in volunteers — right before a storm.
In Rochester, New York, the Bethany House closed its food pantry and women’s shelter temporarily because it didn’t have enough staff.
Some shelters, such as the Good Shepherd Shelter for domestic abuse survivors in Los Angeles, have stopped taking in new clients. Good Shepherd decided last month to limit its clientele to families who came to them before the outbreak, said Monica Martinez, a director at the shelter.
“We want to make sure we control the exposure to the virus,” Martinez said.
In Thousand Oaks, Cortes used donations to put up about 40 of her Harbor House clients in local motels.
Meanwhile, her younger clients are sleeping in campsites and some of her senior clients prefer to camp in their cars. They’re too afraid to go to a motel, she said. She’s hoping to get the others housed quickly, now that Ventura County officials have leased a motel. At the motels, homeless clients will all be tested for the coronavirus and cared for, she said.
“It was very hard for them,” Cortes said. “We tried to explain how worried we were for them. I told them we were working on getting more donations.”
Other homeless service providers are finding ways to “decompress” shelters, that is, reducing the number of beds in a room. But many don’t have the space or resources to do that. Suburban and rural shelters, which are typically run by local churches, will be hit hard, advocates say.
In Texas, the Family Promise of Lubbock operates two homeless shelters, one for families and one for expectant mothers. They rely on a network of local churches to keep things running. But since the pandemic broke out and local churches closed, donations have dropped by half, according to Executive Director Doug Morris.
“Now, we’re just asking the church volunteers to provide gift cards,” Morris said. “Some are dropping meals off at the doorstep for contactless delivery.”
Morris said he’s stopped accepting new families in small shelters and instead moves new families into apartments and pays their rent.
“We’re all supposed to be staying at home,” Morris said. “But this virus didn’t end homelessness. There are still people that need our help.”
Advocates are hoping that the federal emergency spending package will provide some immediate relief. The $2 trillion emergency spending bill, the largest in history, includes $4 billion for homeless assistance, which can be used for temporary emergency shelters, staffing, training and hazard pay.
The money also can go toward eviction prevention assistance, including rapid rehousing, housing counseling and rental deposit assistance.
The legislation stipulates that the money may not be used “to require people experiencing homelessness to receive treatment or perform any other prerequisite activities as a condition for receiving shelter, housing, or other services.”
But many advocates fear the relief package won’t be enough and expect the ranks of the homeless to swell.
Shelter providers urgently need more money to hire staff to fill in for sick workers and to cover for the senior volunteers who cannot work, Yentel said.
They also need money to buy masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. And they need money to acquire temporary, bigger spaces for shelters.
Some shelters are using federal dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay for hotel rooms. Some are relying on private donations.
“I’m really worried about what will happen when the money dries up,” said Eric Samuels, president and CEO of the Texas Homeless Network, a membership-based nonprofit that works with local communities to prevent and end homelessness.