Executive Director of the MSA United Way Homeless Shelter in the Capital City, Jena Gullo, says that up until about a month ago they rarely had to turn someone away. Now, the shelter has been at capacity for at least a month.
When we last spoke with Gullo, she told KX News that United Way was running out of options to help.
Now, the state is stepping in.
“It actually is a life or death situation for most of our homeless clients. The vast majority have underlying risk factors,” Gullo shared.
But things are looking a little brighter. The Department of Human Services, along with multiple state agencies, have come up with more shelter. We won’t be sharing the location of the actual temporary shelters for the safety of those quarantined there.
Sara Stolt with Human Services says intake into these facilities is just a 10 to 15-minute phone conversation with her Department.
“Not everyone gets tested who goes to the shelter. It depends on what they’re there for. We had someone come from Seattle yesterday, on a bus, and they’re homeless, but they have to be quarantined because they came from out of state. Now, if during their quarantine they would show symptoms, then we would go through the testing process, but sometimes it is just the 14-day quarantine,” Stolt, the Chief Operating Officer at DHS explained.
Right now, that two weeks is the limit for stay, unless someone is still sick.
“Case management works on a discharge plan with these individuals, so we don’t just say, ‘Okay, you’re back out on the street’,” Stolt reassured.
“I’m quite certain they’ll be reassessing that as time goes on because there are too many factors and variables with this pandemic,” Gullo added when asked about the 14-day limit.
Vulnerable people who need a place to keep safe do have to be referred.
“An existing homeless shelter, it could be an emergency room, it could be a hospital, a food pantry, social services. Really, we just want to make sure someone knows who they are, has laid eyes on them,” Stolt explained.
Once housed at one of the eight sites across the state, you’re given three meals a day. This is available for anyone, anywhere in the state.
This program has the potential to outlast the pandemic.
“I wouldn’t say that the emergency shelters will necessarily become permanent, but in terms of addressing homelessness, food and security, and domestic violence, that is really going to be the focus of this task force,” Stolt added.
The temporary shelter has been available for about two weeks now, housing 45 people. Stolt says there’s still plenty of space.
Right now, the cut off for FEMA funding for these shelters is May 10. In the next week or two, a decision will have to be made on whether or not to continue the program for another 30 days.