April 15, 2020- Winston Salem, NC- For Immediate Release: Continuum of Care , Forsyth County Government and the City of Winston Salem Responding to Covid19 Concerns for those Experiencing Homelessness in Our Community
The United Way of Forsyth County announced today, that in conjunction with the city and county, strategies have been underway in support of persons experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic and unable to be accommodated in the existing shelter system.
Persons experiencing homelessness are at greater risk during this time, particularly the medically fragile, and the number of people becoming homeless due to job loss, illness, and other factors is estimated to grow. There are 8 shelters in Forsyth County with a total of 435 beds. Currently most shelters have bed availability, but have limitations on admission due to concerns related to COVID-19 spreading in mass shelter environments.
The County has identified a location for 24/7 isolation services for people medically ordered to do so. There will be an on-site peer support specialist, medical monitoring, and cleaning services per the CDC guidelines.
There are individuals in our homeless community that are considered medically fragile and require additional support and the ability to self-isolate during this pandemic. The Continuum of Care (COC) estimates about 100 people have health conditions listed by the CDC as putting them at significant risk of serious complication/mortality if they contract COVID-19.
Andrea Kurtz, Senior Director Housing Strategies, notes that, “The Continuum of Care (COC) is working with the City to open additional sites where 24/7 shelter can be provided for people who are both homeless and at heightened risk from COVID-19. These locations will also have on-site peer support and staff working to help with transition planning to permanent housing.”
Forsyth County Department of Public Health (FCDPH) has supported the shelters by providing them on-site advice on how to manage the sleeping quarters and other areas of their facilities in order to best protect the guests and staff. FCDPH has also provided advice on how to properly screen people checking in for shelter, including how to use the newly donated infrared thermometers. The public health nurses are especially helpful in advising how to make the shelters as safe as they can be given the nature and scope of providing emergency shelter in a mass shelter setting.
The COC is continuing outreach work with people who are campers or otherwise unsheltered. Outreach teams are offering portable hand washing stations to camp sites, and that information about social distancing and the shelter in place order is shared. COC members are also encouraging campers to shelter in place. In addition, COC members have met with law enforcement to encourage them not to ticket people for camping during this pandemic.
The economic conditions of the Covid-19 outbreak are dire: As people lose their jobs, some are finding themselves on the streets, despite anti-eviction measures meant to prevent this. The City and County are working diligently to support the COC in their effort.
Press Inquiries: Andrea Kurtz- firstname.lastname@example.org