April 24, 2020- For Immediate Release: Continuum of Care, Forsyth County Government and the City of Winston Salem Announce Initiatives to Assist Those Experiencing Homelessness During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Those experiencing homelessness are at greater risk during this time and the number of people becoming homeless due to job loss, illness, etc. is estimated to exponentially grow. Given close quarters, compromised immune systems, and an aging population, people experiencing homelessness are exceptionally vulnerable to communicable diseases, not excluding the current outbreak of coronavirus, COVID-19.*
The Continuum of Care (CoC) currently estimates about 100 people have health conditions listed by the CDC as putting them at significant risk of serious complication/mortality if they contract COVID19.
Forsyth County Government opened an isolation shelter last week providing a safe space for people who need to be isolated/quarantined because of COVID-19. It has provided relief to the existing shelters who were struggling to provide safe harbors following the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.
Members of the Continuum of Care and Representatives from the City of Winston-Salem have been finalizing plans to open a temporary shelter specifically for the medically fragile. This shelter will not only offer an opportunity for people at heightened risk because of pre-existing conditions to shelter-in-place in a space that can afford them protection from exposure to COVID-19, but will also provide engagement opportunities, and supportive services focused on helping people transition back towards permanent housing.
This shelter will also be hotel-based and it will have on-site peer support and staff working to help with transition planning to permanent housing. Bethesda Center for the Homeless will take the lead with City with Dwellings providing support to the guests; and will provide Client Management services. Food is being provided by Samaritan Ministries.
Andrea Kurtz, Senior Director Housing Strategies, notes that, “We are very excited that the medically fragile shelter location has been identified with a plan to begin the client intake process on Monday April 27, 2020. The partnerships that have come together to create both shelters in such a short period of time are amazing, and reflect the compassion, expertise and investment our community is able to put forth to ensure all our residents are safe and cared for.”
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.