Shelters, Food Distribution Centers Wary Of Winter Demands

Homeless are being sheltered in former schools, warehouses and hotels as need for shelter increases during coronavirus, unemployment.
Posted at 4:05 PM, Dec 10, 2020

"The food pantry opens at 9:30, at nine o'clock there was already a line," said Gabriele Tibbs, director of supportive services at Streetlight Ministries.

About 300 people a week are showing up at Streetlight Ministries in Virginia for groceries.  

The number of people in need of shelter here has also increased; a mix of new and old faces, many working professionals. 

"They have never faced the threat of homelessness, and it's very traumatizing,” Tibbs remarked. 

The team at Streetlight Ministries says they’ve been working hard to keep COVID-19 out as the number of people looking to get in grows.

In the nation’s capital, DC Central Kitchen is busier than ever. 

"We're doing well over 10,000 meals a day. Part of those meals include grocery bags, which is something we hadn't done before," said CEO Mike Curtin Jr. 

Still, CEO Mike Curtin says the fear of catching COVID-19 is keeping some away.

"It's going to be harder and harder to bring them in. And I think we all really need to be aware of that and do what we can. Because this is going to be a tough few months ahead of us," he warned. 

On top of a growing crisis around food insecurity, Newsy’s tracked COVID-19 outbreaks in homeless shelters across four states. 

"They did some obvious things like mandating mask-wearing having testing readily available, emphasizing hand washing," said journalist Giles Bruce. 

Giles Bruce has been covering the homeless crisis for Kaiser Health News. 

"Chicago, for example, is using abandoned schools. The largest shelter in Fargo, North Dakota, which has an average high temperature in January of 18 degrees, is utilizing an insulated, heated warehouse," said Bruce.

But even with the alternative spaces, the outbreaks are still happening. Some shelters are using money from the CARES Act to provide things like hotels for at-risk clients or clients recovering from COVID-19. 

However, a number of states have not used the funds allocated from Congress, and are quickly approaching a December 30 deadline when provisions from the original legislation expire. 

Some in Congress are negotiating extensions to relief legislation, aiming to give states more time to get the funds into the hands of those who need it. Something places like this say is vital as winter approaches and the need increases. Outside Washington, Amber Strong, Newsy.