Thousands of homeless men and women have tested positive for COVID-19 in cities across the U.S. Once the virus reaches a shelter, it’s very difficult to stop it from spreading through an already vulnerable population.
But Colorado Springs has been fortunate. There has been no spread of the virus in local shelters, and no verified positive tests among the local homeless population. While Springs Rescue Mission worked vigorously with community partners to prepare for a worst-case scenario, it has come as a huge relief to have been adequately prepared.
On April 5, just a week before Easter Sunday, Springs Rescue Mission partnered with the City of Colorado Springs and several other community partners to open an “isolation center” (also known as “isolation shelter”) to house homeless individuals experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. It’s a precaution missing in many other communities — and one that has perhaps saved lives.
The process of creating the facility began in mid-March and experienced a few snags before coming to fruition at the historic City Auditorium in downtown Colorado Springs. The 70-bed facility includes temporary bathrooms with showers, entertainment options, daily meals, and most of all a safe and secure location for homeless men and women to self-quarantine during the pandemic.
“It’s been really awesome to see how the team has pulled together and to see everyone really step up,” said Robert Farmer, director of guest services. “I think all of our staff really understand and want to be a part of that, because they know how important their role is for what this community is trying to do.”
Initially fearing a wide spread of infection among Colorado Springs’ homeless population of more than 1,500, the isolation shelter was designed with expansion in mind. With 130 cots available, Springs Rescue Mission was prepared to help increase the number of beds and available services/staff based on the need (first to 100, then to 130 if necessary).
Thankfully, the need has not been great enough to warrant such an expansion. To date, 41 unique individuals (symptomatic men and women, no children) have been referred to the isolation shelter; nightly guests have averaged 13; and no known positive tests have been verified.
“Even if only one symptomatic person used the isolation shelter, it would be worth it to protect Colorado Springs already vulnerable homeless population,” said Chief Development Officer Travis Williams. “To see so many rally together to care for homeless individuals during this critical time is a testimony to this community. We recognize we’re all in this together. The outpouring from this community to serve their fellow man has been inspiring. Perhaps we can all stretch a little more to serve, offer grace, and continue doing our part to care for one another.”
Springs Rescue Mission staff and leadership would like to sincerely thank all parties involved in making the isolation shelter a reality, helping our most vulnerable neighbors seek the services they need to stay healthy and safe. Those community partners include:
- the City of Colorado Springs
- Community Health Partnerships
- Zactly Healthcare Solutions;
- University of Colorado School of Medicine;
- JAN-PRO (commercial cleaning);
- Alsco (linen and uniform rental services);
- Catholic Charities of Central Colorado;
- Envida of Colorado Springs; and
- the many others who devoted their time, energy and other resources to this most-worthy cause.
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